This blog is currently on hiatus owing to work commitments. Whilst I still keep an eye on the goings on at RiAus, and contribute to the work of the good folks at eLife, little will be added to this blog for the foreseeable future. Simon Says remains open for business, albeit at a reduced capacity. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope the archive of content found here will prove to be of interest.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Third Leaders Debate: Live from Campus 5

Phew! What a day! What a debate? Well, I'm not sure, but this is not the place for a discussion on the quality of the arguments put forward. But as the media and parties whip themselves up into a frenzy in the 'Media Centre' (a temporary setup in the Avon Room, a room where I have had many lectures and exams) and as Question Time begins in the Great Hall (where I graduated), I thought I'd finish off my day of sporadic observations and desperate attempts to find stories from the wrong side of the security fence.

The Third Leaders Debate: Live from Campus 4

HANDILY, somebody just set the fire alarm off in Biosciences, so, in spite of the rain, Karl and I just went for a look around. Good job we did - as we were walking towards the compound, Lord Peter Mandelson walked by, surrounded by a flurry of reporters, cameramen and sound engineers, as well as soggy students. He looked quite happy, not perturbed by the crowds. Karl was very excited.

"I'm really happy now!" he said.
"Yeah! We saw someone famous!" I replied.
"Well, its only Peter Mandelson."

The Third Leaders Debate: Live from Campus 3

I JUST went for a walk around campus to get a feel for the mood of the people out there, and there are a lot of people out there. Sky News have set up in front of the hydrogen cars, and there was a melee of people trying to peer in through the fences. There isn't much to see as a barrier of news vans restricts the view to the Great Hall, but people were chatting away, mostly both excited and terrified in equal measure at the prospect of snipers on the rooftops (we saw at least two). I chatted with a politics student called Matt, talking about the security and the excitement of the occasion; there are many students wearing pink "vote for students" t-shirts provided by the Guild; and there was a girl dressed as a tiger - who knows why, but for the spirit of the occasion perhaps?

Not everybody is excited, however. The lady who just served me in the cafe was complaining that all the rhetoric, sob stories and spin is untrustworthy. "Like or loathe her policies," she said of Margaret Thatcher, "if she said she was going to do something, it happened. That won't happen with this lot." One student outside the compound agreed, saying (loudly) as he passed: "Why should I care about those three, opinionated t*****s?"

All of the leaders have arrived now and are inside rehearsing. There's little else I can say for now: I'll hopefully be with the crowd at the BBC Big Screen later to judge reaction and will be updating somehow later on.

The Third Leaders Debate: Live from Campus 2

Twitter tells me all three leaders are now in the house, as it were. Listening to the radio the Gordon Brown "bigoted woman" gaffe continues to be debated, despite it being a non-news story. He said something he shouldn't have, in private, being recorded when he shouldn't have been. He has apologised - can we move on please? I'm sure they are all as bad as each other. What is worse, that the Prime Minister had a grumble about somebody, or that somebody has what some are seeing as bigoted views? Surely the news should cover why she said what she said and why she believes that, rather than his comment?

The Third Leaders Debate: Live from Campus 1

LAST night I went to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham. I didn't expect that this morning I would show up to work at the University of Birmingham to see cameramen and police on the rooftops too.

Last week I randomly guessed that the third Prime Ministerial debate, billed as in the 'West Midlands', would be at the Great Hall on campus. It was a lucky guess, and as rumours spread excitement grew. Yesterday there could be no denying that the debate was here as vans, satellite dishes, spotlights and cables started to fill Chancellors Court. I had a wander round as they were setting up - I can't do the same today. Police are swarming, the archways of the redbrick architecture have been filled with body scanners, and university roads have been blocked off.

I have no idea what I will be able to see/tell from today. I am actually at work and have a whole day of work to do, but I will try to wander around the site every so often and see what is happening and update here if I can. Meanwhile I recommend that you visit Redbrick Online, home of the university's student newspaper, who are doing their best to cover the day's events.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Sirocco the Kākāpō in Exile

DO YOU remember Scirocco the kakapo? It turns out he is facing exile.

Scirocco the kakapo gained notoriety last year when he tried to mate with Mark Carwardine's head on BBC2's Last Chance to See. The scene became an international sensation and thrust the kakapo, a species I have been fond of for some time, into the limelight. As a result of the programme, the Kakapo Recovery Project in New Zealand has been swamped with donations and Scirocco himself, at the suggestion of New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, became the "spokesbird" of conservation as part of New Zealand's role in the International Year of Biodiversity. But his promotion has come at a cost: Scirocco is now looking for a new home.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A Prayer for Poland

AT Church on Sunday the current situation in Poland was mentioned in the intercessory prayers. The congregation duly listened, perhaps murmured in agreement with the sentiment shared by the reader, and then said Amen. The service proceeded, with a sermon on a scripture from John's gospel. But after the sermon, before the service could continue as planned, something happened - something unusual, I suspect, for most church services: spontaneity.

A member of the congregation stood up, acting peculiar. She went up to the man who had just given the sermon, asking for the pastor. When she found the pastor she said she needed to pray, so on his invitation she went to the front of the hall and addressed everybody. In tears, she explained.