Monday, 10 October 2011

Back to the drawing board


After a busy 4 weeks back at college, two jobs and not enough hours in the day I feel like I have forgotten about this blog. Next week I am planning to start it back up and use it for the purpose it was made for.

This blog has proved to be a great way of working on my skills whilst providing me with a week's work experience at the Herald in the summer which was a fantastic learning experience.

Anyway, till next week then.


Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Escaping the world can be hard. People can get in touch. Every hour of everyday. Whether you’re just hiding from work or pulling a classic Oscar winning performance to do so, the fact is, they’ll find you somehow. Is there only one solution to appear invisible? To pull the plug on technology.

Some people may check out after reading that last sentence but is it just too hard to stop using the internet? Sure I may be a hypocrite as I sit on my laptop whilst writing this but I have done it before. Cold turkey for 40 days. Sure I had to use the excuse that Lent was a religiously holding me hostage to the avoidance of logging onto my facebook but I lasted.

It was 8 years ago when my dad brought home the massive and curious space looking Tiny computer that was placed in our living room corner. Like starting a motorbike it would shake and try to take off as it booted itself up. Establishing the rules that this computer was only for the benefit of my sister’s high school homework and playing spider solitaire it seems a world away from today’s 24 hour check in.

It was at the age of 14 I was introduced to social networking. It was the age of MSN. Making a hotmail address and hoping for the best I tried in vain to understand all abbreviations. With many friends already ahead in typing and avoiding parental suspicion with abbreviations like ‘LOL’ and ‘IMAO’ I was safely to say behind.

Things moved along at a fast pace. After MSN instant messenger failed to impress Myspace, which was more popular for looking up music artists was next. By the time I had made an account after a year that everyone else had already been chatting away it was onto the next social network. BEBO.

It was all about making your own profile. Putting in your backgrounds, music videos and adding as many friends as you could. I can safely say again I was once again confused by the whole the thing. People were swapping social networkers quicker than I could work out how to use them. Then came the big one. Facebook.

Everyone you’ve ever known seems to be there. You may even be lucky enough to have your media savvy parents who want to keep up-to-date with the latest social networking. So how do you last 40 days and nights to avoid the temptation?

Simply switching off may be a hard task for some. People live for news. Becoming addicted to the internet is not a common thing. As you turn away from the internet you may feel yourself over using your mobile. Texting all your friends to check that you’re not missing out on any nights out or gossip. There is also getting facebook emails in your hotmail inbox and pretending you don’t check up on them. Yet, if I can go cold turkey and then anyone can. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Rioting against a society that no longer takes any notice of them. It was the killing of Mark Duggan that lit the match to an outburst of violence on the streets of London last week. Thousands looted shops, fought with police and even set fires to local businesses. As each day came, cities where erupting with youths intent of stealing and destroying as much as they could. Snaking its way up the country it stopped before it came north of the border. It all ended in Manchester. Scotland had no riots. Now, why was that?

The main reason that has been given by politicians and police alike is that people in youths in England are uneducated, that the system has failed the generation and that they have nothing to aspire too. In a recent survey it was found that 35.3% of adults aged between 16-64 in Glasgow’s North East have left school with no qualifications. This is followed by Birmingham, where three men died after being run over in the riots, that 33.3% had also left school without achieving any qualifications. So do the recent riots in London call the battle to turn into the war of effective education in the classrooms?

In the last year the Conservative government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats have heightened fees to £9,000 in England. This is a significant rise of £6,000 for students in England. In Scotland, Scottish students do not pay university fees for their degree course.

To condone the riots as a result of the university fees being hiked would be utterly absurd. What you can say is that the fees were in place before these riots happened. There was the £3,000 payment.

This could be said to have already deterred promising students that would have wanted to go to university. Now that the fees have been hiked up some young people in England may feel that they have now been exiled from that politically loved saying of social mobility.

Yet, in Glasgow’s North East there is that chilling statistic of 35.5% of adults leaving school without any qualifications. With university being free for students why is the opportunity not grasped in two hands? Surely with free education and free schooling then Scottish youths have that opportunity many of their mothers and fathers may not have had.

Looking more closely before children leave school without qualifications is the change from primary to high school. In recent years in Scotland the curriculum of excellence has been rolled out and introduced. For many teachers they see it as a vague, an outline to a system in need of strong body to guide students through the education system.

The curriculum of excellence intends to make children into the following four capacities, successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. They all sound rather good. Everyone would want their child to be one of those if not all four.

What the curriculum fails to provide is straight subjects. It would rather make successful learners from being able to use literary. It would make much more sense if teachers could focus on providing children with basic English language skills with the goal of making one day making them into successful learners.

Perhaps it’s all in the wording. That a well put out report stands in good stead with the education committees and politicians. Time is a great teller of an education system and its downfalls. We watched as England burned as a result of education. One most ask, ‘How long does Scotland have till we see the violence come to our streets?’

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Sitting sipping his cappuccino in Dolcenero cafe in Italy a sudden sick feeling must have hit David Cameron. Like that moment in Home Alone when the parents realise they have left Kevin at home. Yes, he had remembered. He left Nick Clegg in charge.

 The sense of urgency swept over him to hurry to get back but it was too late as masked youths ran amuck all over London. Smashing windows, looting, scenes showing lack of human sense (or any sense) and all because no one would take responsibility for their actions. So, who should we blame?

 Obliviously it is the people who took to the streets. With the free will to do what they wanted telling the media, “we are just getting our taxes back” and “we are doing this because we can.”

Anyone and anything that can be, has so been blamed so far. The parents, the police, the cuts, the summer holidays, gang culture and the shooting of Mark Duggan.

The answer is, quite simply, time. Time has finally caught up with Britain’s widening society. We’re constantly told that we have the biggest social divide since WW2 but the truth is the government let the unemployed become the unemployable.

Generations of families who have never worked a day in their life. Passing down the sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction.

As David Cameron stood outside the burnt out shell of Reeves furniture the scale of the destruction was daunting on him. Cameron did point out that, “We will not put up with this in our country.”

Cue Boris Johnson waging war on rioters with a broom. Good old Boris, always up for some political point scoring with Theresa May standing in the background, trying not to look sullen due to the fact her holiday was over.

The rioters, some as young as 11, showed the gaping hole of a society on the brink. It has now been named the “sick society” but is this some sickness or convenient term to label the trouble makers. In the coming Cameron's biggest test will be to pin down the problem and address the i steps he must take to avoiding this violence in the future. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have another holiday anytime soon. Teenagers are known for wrecking the place whilst the parents are away.  

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


The Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) today sent out the exam results of 30,000 students via text message.

Students up and down the country who applied to find out their results via text it have been confirmed will find out a day early their correct results. Tomorrow all 160,000 students are expected to receive their results by post and e-mail. This recent blunder is not the first time the SQA have come into difficulty when it comes to handling breaking the big news.

In 2010 students received results early using the same system. Janet Brown, chief executive of SQA said:

“This afternoon the 29,863 candidates who had opted to receive their SQA examination results via text message were sent these results early.

The text results should have been issued to candidates at 09.00 tomorrow (Thursday August 4).

SQA is conducting an urgent inquiry with the external contractor, AQL, which issues the texts on behalf of SQA, in order to understand how this has happened.”

This recent blunder will call into question the efficiency of the SQA and government as they try to dismiss that these students will have an advantage over others when it comes to clearing. Is this really the case?

Universities have been told not to engage in discussion in terms of results with students who received their results early. Yet, clearing is a fast paced and final chance for entry to university. A student must apply through UCAS to clearing but the students in question will have the opportunity to look at clearing options available and have more preparation time to phone up universities and talk about their options.

For students tomorrow receiving results, they will be behind their text receiving counter parts by 8 hours as the clearing option preference opens at midnight tonight.

Criticism has been strong from the opposition, Ken Macintosh, Scottish Labour education spokesman said, "There should be a clear and level playing field, especially because the online clearing system is live and searchable from midnight.

"This should not have happened and pupils and parents need to know what has gone wrong quickly."

Thursday, 28 July 2011


The London underground. The tunnels stretch all across the city providing one of the main forms of public transport for tourist and locals alike. It also provides a new form of ‘scams’ which I witnessed myself when I took a trip down recently.
When we arrived, with our heavy suitcases and accents we headed to the friendly man behind the ticket booth. I was surprised by what I saw next. A simple bit of math people. We paid on average about £27 for four adults (depending on where in London we were travelling) to travel in the main Westminster lines. Since we had no Oyster card, the worker swiped his own card through the system, charges us the full (non Oyster card) £27 and for the benefit of having his own keeps the extra £7, which would have been saved and pockets it himself.
Nice and easy little scam. Now imagine doing that hundreds of time over during one week.
I brought this little scam up as Glasgow plans to bring in the Oyster card. Ticket barriers have been recently introduced which should put a stop to people skipping out on buying tickets. It should also put a few ticket collectors out of work.
Speaking of the success of the London underground Jonathan Findlay, SPT chairman, said: "You only have to look at how successful London's Oyster card has been to see the real benefits of smartcard ticketing to passengers
"Smartcards have the most benefit where secure, speedy transactions need to be carried out, so where better to start implementing them than the Glasgow Subway, where services are frequent and journeys are short?

"It has been proven in many major cities worldwide that a simple, fully-flexible, cashless ticket encourages more people to use public transport and this announcement shows just how committed we are to achieving that."

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Spotting them on the high street. Clipboard in hand. The natural avoidance tactics take over. Suddenly you find that you have somewhere to be, you’re drawn to a shop window in the opposite direction. So, why do we avoid these clipboard phantoms?
After all, giving money to charity is a regular thing we all do. Maybe it’s the thought of standing in Buchanan Street being told by an acme stricken teen that the forests are dying because you don’t have energy efficient light bulbs sends you running.
The culture of these clipboard carrying do-gooders seems to bring out that British knack of tip toeing out the conversation. You feel like a target when you see people hawking insurance. The big red spot on your chest draws them to you.
Before you attempt to duck behind bushes and pretend you didn’t see them as they tried to start a conversation try just a simple smile. I’ve found just saying ‘hello’ and skipping merrily along always leaves my less than keen friends to be trapped in a conversation. An expert at escaping there rhetorical built questions to trick you into giving over details is something I’ve learned.
Perhaps it is a bit harsh. People have jobs to do. Yet, you are always left wondering. Must they do it on your day off?

Friday, 22 July 2011


Football tops are shrouded over railings, school ties in knots and candles lighting up the streets in a vigil turning the stretch of road into a memory. A visual representation of a loss of an entire town. This has become a sight in Lanarkshire that has become a monthly reminder of the deplorable result of violent crime.

The South Lanarkshire area is known as a ‘crime hotspot’ and the murder capital of Scotland with 13 deaths in the last year as a result of knife crime. It was announced this week by the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland that tougher sentences are to be brought for first-time offenders who are caught carrying knifes. It must be asked is the action too late?

Knifes have become a new phenomenon of violent outbursts of crime in the area. Yet, it is not thieves attacking thieves. It is not gangs against gangs. It is violent young men against defenseless victims. Is there any true origin of this rise in this sort of crime?

It’s true we live in a world of third generation unemployed in an area surrounded by a poor police presence in a melting pot of frustration due to an ever ending recession. Does this merit picking up a knife and using it? No, it doesn’t. Finally queue the political bells and legal ramifications of ever too late but finally on time public cry for tougher sentences for these mindless criminals.

The Lord Advocate said: "Carrying a knife in public is completely unacceptable and those in our society who choose to ignore this will face the full rigour of the law."

James Kelly, Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister said that the Lord Advocates decision was, ‘step in the right direction and is a victory for the knife crime campaigners who have campaigned tirelessly for action to end the culture that is claiming the lives of too many innocent Scots.”

Mr Kelly added: “It has taken the SNP government over four years to listen to powerful voices like John Muir who have championed the cause of knife crime victims.”

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Review

The final instalment of the Harry Potter series magically ended this weekend.  It’s been a decade since Harry played by Daniel Radcliffe jumped on the Hogwarts Express and headed for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Ten years on the series and books have picked up millions of fans from countries all over the world. The universal message of love, death, friendship and the fight of good versus evil are easily translated across borders and oceans.

Household names have been made out of the actors and actresses to grace the magically world over the years as well as many already household names joining over the years. Helping Harry along the way is Ron and Hermione played by Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. In the final film fans will be happy to see that the pair finally get their on screen kiss.

In the final film nothing is held back. It’s all about the final Battle of Hogwarts. Although emotionally the viewer is invited to take a look into a character they loved to hate. Serverus Snape. Harry’s most loathed teacher. We discover through series of flashbacks through a pensieve, that Snape has always loved Harry’s mother, Lily Potter and that he has been protecting him all this time.
Anyway, enough of the sad stuff. As Harry hunts down the final Horcuxes or pieces of Voldemolts soul we get closer and closer to that final great Western show-down. Minus the guns, add in the wands. The climax is what every child who has read the book wants to see.
It comes down to that raw fight. Standing up to those people who just won’t give up. People that are pure evil. Ralph Fiennes plays that part of Voldemolt to perfection. His walk, talk and general character oozes  terror and hate.

A final showdown for a film film. It is a must see for every cinema lover.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


After 168 years News of the World is to publish it’s final paper this Sunday. This follows the shocking revelations that journalists working for the paper hacked the mobile phones of murdered victims and their families, fallen soldiers and their families and victims of the 7/7 bombings.

One question still remains. Should the captain go down with his ship?

Looking at the Murdoch empire it is impossible to see the end of such a massive cooperation. Although could Rupert Murdoch, 80 step down and hand the reigns over to his son, James?

The paper has shown the undermining and truly shocking nature of cut throat journalism. An animalistic attitude to a very human profession. News of the world is a paper which demanded results and not a better example of the pressure that the journalists were under is from Glenn Mulcaire.

“Working for the News of the World was never easy. There was relentless pressure. There was a constant demand for results. I knew what we did pushed the limits ethically. But, at the time, I didn't understand that I had broken the law at all.

"A lot of information I obtained was simply tittle-tattle, of no great importance to anyone, but sometimes what I did was for what I thought was the greater good, to carry out investigative journalism.