Thursday, 31 July 2008

Energy...

Image by Flickr user hey mr glen and made available under Creative Commons license

A few energy related stories strayed onto my screen today...

First of all of course is the massive hike in heating costs that I, along with hundreds of thousands of others, have been hit with as British Gas have raised energy prices. Cold showers from now on I think...

Also a speech by Al Gore made earlier this month, which has some interesting things to say about our future energy needs.

Also invited to THIS EVENT at Sheffield University. Won't be attending, but obviously IT costs are going to rise along with every other costs, and have heard a bit about "thin clients" recently...

Finally, was this possible solution to the USA's energy shortage from Barbara Ehrenreich, whose book "Going to Extremes: Notes from a Divided Nation" I've been reading recently...

Location, location, location...

Image by Emma Johns

Over to Milton Keynes yesterday for a meeting at the Open University. On the way, went past the huge Amazon Distribution Centre at Marston Gate, right next to the M1 Junction 13 as you can see on the Google Earth image below - the location is obviously perfect in terms of transportation links. As well as the M1, it is 20 minutes from Luton Airport, and next to the Thames Link rail line.
It is "the largest e-commerce distribution centre in Europe. This purpose built facility occupies the same space as eight football pitches, equivalent to the length of three London Eye’s stacked on top of each other."

"The 46,450 square foot Marston Gate Distribution Centre was opened in November 2000 with over 300 people involved in its construction. The centre delivers orders placed at Amazon.co.uk to customers across the country and to more than 200 countries worldwide. In the Distribution Centre there are four different picking levels in the picking tower with 82 rows of shelves per level. To move products around the centre, over 5,000 metres of conveyor belts are used equivalent to the length of 500 double decker buses. During Christmas last year, Amazon.co.uk experienced its biggest shipment day ever, when it dispatched more than 300,000 items."

Information from Discover Bedfordshire and Luton webpage

Has also introduced ENERGY EFFICIENCY measures.

Just further along the road was the giant John Lewis distribution centre.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Spotlight on me...

The CGeog section of the RGS website has started a new feature to put the spotlight on Chartered Geographers, and the first one to go under the spotlight is me...
Read my little biography here. If you've come to this blog post via the RGS website, you're very welcome. This blog will be carrying my day to day geographical life from September, when I start my new job.

Check out my previous Geographical ramblings (almost 700 of them) at my GEOGRAPHY AND ALL THAT JAZZ blog for a fuller picture of what I get up to. (I even get 'cyber-stalked' by the ladies in the office at school...)

Friday, 25 July 2008

Psychogeography at the BBC

Tuesday this week was spent in a sultry GA HQ up in Sheffield looking at some wonderful submissions for the Secondary Geography Quality Mark with colleagues from the GA. Some outstanding geography going on in schools, and pencilled in a few people to contact to try to build on, and share further, their good practice. Ended up taking around 7 hours to work through the submissions, but a very positive experience.

Yesterday, on the hottest day of the year so far, I caught a train down (bargain thanks to my Network card) to King's Cross, and wandered along Euston Road to the BBC Broadcasting House. Had my usual West Cornwall Cornish pasty (wholemeal vegetable), and a swift half in a classic London corner pub. Over to queue and go through security, and met up with some geography chums. Once inside, it was deliciously cool with the air conditioning kicking in.

Image of BBC Broadcasting House by Flickr User Hugovk and made available under Creative Commons

Into the BBC Radio Theatre: art deco decoration. Laurie Taylor chaired the discussion. A recording of the BBC 4 show: "THINKING ALLOWED".

3 people on the panel:

Richard Sennett: sociologist from the LSE

Doreen Massey: Open University Geographer

Will Self: author of 'Psychogeography' (blogged about that before) and 'Book of Dave' - I presume he walked to the BBC...
Some notes from the session - lasted about 80 minutes, which has to be edited down to around 30 minutes...

  • A lot of the discussion was (unsurprisingly) quite London-centric
  • Will Self talked about sitting in the lobbies of London hotels in a sports jacket as a teen and enjoying the contrast between the individual and the anonymous: no-one knows who I am - and how that could become loneliness...
  • Mention of the flaneur: the wanderer who walks the streets of a city to discover it: the links to development of psycogeography
  • Discussion on the segmentation of cities: perhaps by class, perhaps by race (link to the postcode war in parts of Sheffield I read about last week)
  • The colonisation of cities by tourists, particularly the central parts of cities, which can impact on residents (this is an issue for many other cities too of course, and would be an interesting area for geographical study: the views of the residents on tourists, for GCSE or 'A' level students (or why not for KS3 ? - and don't be too concerned with getting a huge 'product' out of the end result - perhaps a Google Map of 'impressions')
  • Seasonality of cities at certain latitudes: changes through the year
  • Doreen Massey talking about the 'responsibility' that London has to the rest of the world.
  • Will Self talking about the increasingly globalised nature of Arsenal FC experience: not just the team, but the spectators and the change between Highbury and the Emirates Stadium
  • Use of the phrase 'Ur-memory': deep memory of how things used to be - like the fact that this was also the first continent, billions of years ago...
  • Discussion of the phrase 'toyist', which appears in 'The Book of Dave'. How many cities are full of unremittingly dull buildings, punctuated by occasional iconic buildings.
  • The homogenisation of the city
  • The idea that although we think of London as a 2000 year old city, occupied since Roman times etc. most of what we see is mid-Victorian...
  • Discussion of N-S divide (N and S London divide) (there's even a Norfolk-Suffolk divide you could say...)
  • Psycogeography: Iain Sinclair, and the 'laddishness' of it all... Why women are perhaps less likely to be psychogeographers...
  • The 'peasantry' of people who don't explore their local area
  • Cities as diagrams...
  • Will Self referring to his wife's version of Psychogeography: "him getting out of the house"
  • Doreen Massey on the narrow time frame of city life, compared to the tectonic scale when surrounded by the rocks of the Scottish Highlands..
  • Discussion on danger and insecurity (brief links to knife crime statistics)
  • The overdoing of danger from strangers, when the more likely scenario is that the child will be "run over by an SUV"...
  • The connection between London and the state (links to work done by Danny Dorling and others in the Census Atlas of Great Britain, on the idea of 'the city' and 'the Archipelago'" - which also has a clear link to the island archipelago in the map at the front of 'The Book of Dave') and how London is beginning to be separated from the rest of the country - the common feeling was that the first time London is flooded (which WILL happen...), it will suddenly become part of the SE of England again... (a nice ending discussion on this theme...)
Interesting connections to the idea of Learning outside the Classroom, and the issues with taking students into urban areas.
The programme will apparently be broadcast on the 27th of August - I hope I've given enough of a trail for you to perhaps join the million other people who hear the show in whatever format suits you. Some interesting ideas to develop further - would there be interest in a CPD unit for geography teachers on Psychogeography and alternative explorations of cities ?
Out into the heat, and back to King's Cross for a sweaty train ride home and proofread my manuscript and made a 'to do' list, followed by a barbeque and cricket game at a friend's house...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Thirst

I hope that I can produce something that has this power and attention-grabbing style...

One via Tony Cassidy.
This has been shared via Slideshare, and is in a 'Shift Happens' stylee...
The importance of WATER.
Check it out, and well done to J Brenman for creating / sharing it...