Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Correlation, causation, and the most offensive article I've ever seen in The Guardian

On the way home today I picked up the copy of the Guardian that was left behind by the person sat next to me.

Now, normally I'd be proud to admit to being the sort of lily-livered lefty who reads the Guardian, but then I wouldn't be banking on page 13.

The Guardian is the home of Bad Science, an excellent column by Ben Goldacre.  Yet page 13 contains an article that is a textbook example of bad science.  I'd also suggest that in the headline - Countries' high rates of disease linked to lower IQs, claim scientists - that the editor should could arguably have insisted on putting the word "scientists" in inverted commas and preceding it with the word "racist".

It starts innocently, albeit banally, enough with a no-shit-Sherlock opening gambit:
People who live in countries where disease is rife may have lower IQs because they have to divert energy away from brain development to fight infections, scientists in the US claim.
Well, yes, quite.  It should be no surprise that small children who are ill or suffering from malnutrition do not have the same resources to devote to brain development.  But this is hardly news.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Boy Who Made My Day (Or, What Happened To The Other Half Of The Train?)

"£1.29 please."

"£1.29 for a cheap plastic biro?"


"I think I just won't bother doing my marking on the way home, then."

I don't think I would have been able to do my marking on the way home anyway.  It was rush hour by the time I got to East Croydon Station today and the trains were all full and slightly delayed.

I boarded the second train that stopped and walked through three carriages before finding a seat, in the middle of a three, next to a nine or ten year old Asian boy, who sat opposite his mother.

The boy grinned at me, and greeted me enthusiastically.  I grinned back at him, and turned my headphones down a little in case any noise was leaking out.

A pretty girl with a flower in her hair sat down opposite me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Moustache-Based Target

Okay, I've been mulling this over.  Dressing up at the weekend was quite enjoyable.  It was amongst friends.  They all understood and knew what I was doing.

However, deciding to show the video to my Sixth Form class today was less enjoyable.  They don't know what I'm really like, and I think I confused and slightly scared them, and embarrassed myself quite a lot.  It was excruciating...

...but important.

If I'm asking people to donate money to the Hoja Project, then I think it's necessary for me to look as stupid and awkward as possible.

Which is why my new target is:

If the Hoja donation page reaches £5,250 before the moustache is shaved off (no earlier than 3rd July) then I'll do a stand up routine dressed as I am in the video.   

If you donate you may make a suggestion about the routine.  I won't guarantee I'll go with it, but I'll go with as many as possible.  You've got a better chance if you keep it clean but unusual (as part of the deal I may well deliberately video this and then show it to my pupils on purpose).

This target may be flexible, and I may break it down into mini-targets approaching the £5,250, each more embarrassing than the last.

So it's likely that, say, £5,100 will get you a stand-up routine with me dressed normally.  £5,150 will get you something a little bit more foolish, and so on.  As suggestions are made I'll make clear pledges on this.

And here's that video again for those who can't be bothered to click the links above:

PS. I've never ever done any stand up before. Standing on my own on stage terrifies me, especially if I'm not well prepared. Which I almost certainly won't be.

PPS. Do pass this on to your friends and get them to donate too.  I'll make sure I advertise where the stand-up is going to be so you can see it live if you are able.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mr Hatchard's Magnificent Moustache (At The Joinee Olympics)


I'm still mulling over what possible targets I could set for 3rd July.  I don't think I'll keep it any longer than that, but I would like to raise a little bit more by making a fool of myself in public.

Further donations at please and thank you, and you can find out how to become a regular supporter at

Here's what my Year 9s thought of the moustache when I gave them scraps of paper to write their comments on last week (some are pictorial so I had to scan them in):

"It looks awesome but it needs to be bigger and dyed green. and you need a beard!"



"Greatly situated on your face.  Better than that scruffy look."

"looks like one of the three Muskateers"

"Looks OK, like to see it kept"


"Your moustache is as incredible Edmund Blackadder moustache and as funny as Mr Bean and gifted as Rowan Atkinson"

"Makes him look old fashioned, all he needs is a bowler hat."


"I can't actually see it when I look at you from the back of the room."

"Should be more bushy and called bob, or a better name like bob Jr."


"I think it would look good if you curled the sides or do a Poirot Moustache.  At the moment, it looks a bit dodgy."

"Unusual and old-fashioned"

"No comment."

"It makes him look like a Pirate. :) Its cool though."

"He looks even cooler than normal."

"What a swagger moustache! but you need a beard as well"

"It would be better if it was curled"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Premier League Predictions Thingy - Final Standings

The Premier League finished some time ago, and I did promise there will be a prize for this.

And here are the final scores:

Sean: 33pts
Katie: 42pts
Phil C: 43pts
Martin: 46pts
Hysen: 47pts
Anthony/Abad: 48pts

and, er...

Me: 60pts

Which would make Sean the winner.  If he'd paid his subs.  So Katie wins!  Hooray!  I shall have to arrange a prize.  I'm still yet to do this.

Here's the full spreadsheet

Sunday, June 06, 2010

£12.76 By 9pm Tonight Or The Moustache Gets It...

This week I have been in a play.  We have been hamming up some rather splendidly silly radio plays once performed in all seriousness in the 1940s.

Entering into the spirit of the period, I took this opportunity to regrow my beard and then strategically shave it into a magnificent moustache.  Only, it doesn't look so magnificent when I'm in my normal clothes, spectacles and unstyled hair.  In fact, it looks ridiculous.

Tomorrow, it's the end of the school holidays.  Those of you who know I'm a secondary school maths teacher by day will recognise the significance of this.  I teach teenagers.

So yesterday I tweeted this.  I suggested that if £50 was donated to the Hoja Project by 6pm today, I'd keep the moustache for work tomorrow.

That was probably a little ambitious, on a hot weekend.  Not that many normal people like to spend such a time at home looking at their computer screens.  So I'll do a little deal with you.

If you manage to get the total on the Hoja Donations Page up to £4,800 by 9pm, it'll stay on for tomorrow at least.  That's just £12.76 in a little over 5 hours.  Perfectly doable.  

A further £25 (a total of £4,825) by the same time on Monday evening, and it'll stay on for Tuesday as well. 

Wednesday's my day off, so I'll leave it for then too.  If it reaches £4,850 by 9pm on Wednesday it'll stay on until the end of the school week.

The Hoja Project is, of course, the charity I helped set up in my friend's village in Tanzania a few years ago.  We sponsor secondary school pupils who cannot afford their fees, we have a vocational training centre (VTC) that teaches carpentry, building and tailoring, and we offer microfinance loans to local people (particularly women) to help them set up small businesses and become financially independent.

If you're wondering why you should donate to a project that seems to have exceeded its fundraising target, then you should know that the target on the donation page is rather abitrary.  The page has been open for several years, and is simply the easiest way to donate online to us.  The more money raised, the more people the project can help.

Suggestions for extending targets to £4,900 and £5,000 are welcome.  I still have the Bryl Creem, by the way.  It's horrible stuff, but I'll pollute my hair with it if the money's right.

"Right.  You have your assignment.  Get going."