Brie Tish

That’s what they shouted at me today as I was on my way to the market in Tala:
“Brie-tish, brie-tish!”. Or was it “Bree-tish”, or possibly “camambert”? That bike draws attention.

Erm what bike?

Hang on, Ill see if I can upload the pic.
(the pic is very large so I have move it to the “more…” section.)

Now, back at the screen and suffering from a terrible stiff neck on the right side which I have started to think — after Denise asked me what I have been doing different lately — might be from sitting at the computer all day using the mouse with my righ hand on a really low chair. Its not uncomfortable as such, but its a million miles away from those ergonomic safety posters we had all over Imperial.

So, how did the Javascript workshop go on Saturday?…

I was so busy I didn’t have time to write an update here on the day. I stayed in the lab with the girls for four hours from 10 o’clock. Which wasn’t smart. I think we’d all have done better with a few breaks. And my shoulder was so flippin’ sore I couldnt raise my hand to write on the whiteboard.

As I see it, these girls don’t know how to program. I was sort-of taking it as read that they could since they have done C and Java courses in previous stages of their course. But I also had a sneaky suspicion that they might not have grasped the principles. The truth is worse than I feared. Many of them dont know what a variable is. But Im not as panicked about this as I might be back home. The reason seems to be largely that the teaching is centred around reciting ‘correct answers’ to questions, and of course the exams are arranged in a similar way. Sadly we cannot predict the questions and offer the girls the appropriate solutions dressed up with a few other bits and bobs to make it look like we’re not givng them the answers when we really are. This is, I think, what happens at the University where the exam is written. And it happens in a lot of schools and colleges in the UK too. But because we are a franchise college we dont have that luxury. So I have been trying to prepare the girls by giving them the principles. And of course programming is one of those. Its a sort of pre-requisite for this Javascript module. The syntax probelms are frightnening. JS Programmers have to embed the syntax of Javascript inside the syntax of HTML. They have to watch out for using single and double quotes because of this nesting. Its frightful. If, on top of that, the programmer in question doesn’t know what a variable is, the best she can do is type (I’m thinking, here, of Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac).

They worked hard on their individual assignments. I am so impressed by their attitude. They will try it on as much as they think they can get away with, but they do also try when the chips are down. the amount of sheer effort I have seen is worth rewarding. I hope they pass their exams. I can **see** the good this workshop has done them. I don’t feel it’s prepared them adequately for the exam, but neither do I feel guilty that I have done, somehow, the wrong thing by trying to stretch them and by favouring principles over the ‘correct’ answers to unknown questions. That’s because I’m still naive enogh to believe in education over qualification (someone remind me I said this if/when my externals come back and ask for more changes to my PhD thesis ).

Here’s the bike pic:
Bike (90k image)


  1. drew Says:

    PhD. I read the abstract, and I don’t understand. at all. Is is about computers???

    I’d much appreciate suggestions for who does the very bestest most dance-able version of "thats my weakness now?" My sister sung it to me on saturday, and Now I’m hunting. 😀

  2. Helen Says:

    Yes – must be the bike that draws attention – absolutely nothing to do with the tall, white, bald, earring-wearing tattooed and pierced freak riding it – no 😉

  3. Jan Says:

    :blush:where did you get the bike from or did i miss somthing?I have just read all this and am quite in awe…well you know i cannot spell,But the kids make me laugh also .. isnt it a bit hot to ride the bike ? or do you just saunter about on it ?as for Toss I will get steve to look at it ..this blog always makes me smile and feel very proud of you thanks Mark…is there anywhere to swim it may help the shoulder and arm ?just a thought xxx Jan

  4. Raj Says:

    I’d agree with Helen, I wonder is "the Bree-tish" from a place like Mars – I mean where else could such a bike come from!.

    You’re going to tell me you bought it locally next !

    … From some tattoed, pierced westerner ….

  5. Chris Says:

    Raj, how long have you been tattoed and pierced?!

    I was disappointed by the bike as well. I was hoping it would be an ancient cast-iron Butcher’s Boy bike or something (especially when I scan-read the word IMPERIAL! Or was that a motorbike?).

    main.pdf — shudder! You kept under wraps matey! I’ll have a look at it when I’m feeling brave.

    Love, Chris

    (avoiding marking, grrrr)

  6. Mark Says:

    Having fun imagining our Raj with tattoos. Mauri ones I think would suit him best: big parallel line designs over his face, what do you think? Not sure what Sunita would say. She looked wicked at the wedding with that line of little red paisley shapes over her face. But that washes off (unlike the turmeric and oil).

    The bike is supplied by VSO. It was bought by the ‘logistics officer’ in Nairobi. Local bikes are in fact Chinese sit-up-and-beg style and one of them would have suited me fine. The beast you see above has nuts and bolts of a different thread so i am having to get the crank nut from the shop in naairobi viar the logistics officer because my local bike maintenance man tells me such parts are not available in Tala. It looks tough, but Africa has knackered it. It was bought for the first volunteer at the college in about 2001/2 I think.

    But its kinda fun to go bombing down the dirt track next to the main road on it — even though it is WAY to small for me!

    Yeah, no big song-and-dance about the thesis. I have never really been proud of the whole process though I do have a feeling that what is contained in main.pdf is well written and the content is suitable to qualify for the award. I hope Tony Simons feels the same.

    (Im sort of avoiding marking as wellm but I have started it)

  7. Dr Mithi Says:

    speaking of far-from-proud-of-thesis – guess what mine’s being used for now? To prop me up a couple of inches on my chair so that its more comfortable to reach the desk! I KNEW those sheets of flattened dried pulp would come in handy one day…

  8. Mark Says:

    Oh! That’s why I need. This chair is way to low. but the table has a big bar underneath it so I won’t be able to get my legs under properly anyway.

  9. Raj Says:

    Tumeric and oil does come off … eventually … after a few days, until then everything you touch seems to go yellow ;), and we don’t mention bedsheets either !

    My thesis is sitting in a cupboard somewhere, the most useful part of it is the extra copies which I printed but never bound, which are now used as scrap paper for drawing on by Ria!