Friday, 27 May 2016

Knitting for the Maasai

Part Time Maasai Warrior IV

OK a bit of cute before the blood drinking and other warriorlike activities to come.

My mother has been knitting and here's the result. I shall be taking Maasai Ted with me and will find a baby warrior to give him to. Not sure if we've got the robes (properly called a shuka) quite right, but there will be plenty of advice on site, and of course I will be wearing the correct gear myself for the initiation ceremony so I will know for next time.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Mystery Tour

Part Time Maasai Warrior III

The travel plans for my trip to the Maasai Steppe are encouragingly vague. This is not travelling for those who like a firm itinerary. I do know that the big ceremony, during which I will be initiated, will take place over two days in early June. I know the name of the village where it will take place, but as I can't find it on Google Maps or indeed Search I am not much the wiser.

What I do know is that a young warrior will be dispatched from the village to Dar es Salaam to meet me at some point after I fly in. He will then escort me on the journey which involves a couple of long and uncomfortable bus rides and then a motorbike. It may take a day or it may take two.

How I will hook up with the young warrior in the chaos of Dar - one of the continent's fastest growing urban centres and slated as Africa's next Megalopolis - is to be decided.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Using Ideas As My Maps

Part Time Maasai Warrior II

I love this map of Africa from an old Victorian family atlas. The"Dark Continent" actually contains a huge expanse of white space representing the unmapped interior.

Fast forward to May 2016 and I consult today's equivalent, Google Maps, for my forthcoming trip to see the Maasai. I am delighted to discover that the village I am visiting is not on Google Maps - I am going to the digital equivalent of a cartographer's white hole. It feels like a real expedition.

Why would I want to drink more blood?

Part Time Maasai Warrior I

The days are counting down before I leave for my expedition to the Maasai Steppe and my thoughts - as well as my gag reflex - turn to the blood I will be drinking when I get there.

I am attending a very important ceremony which marks the transition for my Maasai brothers Juma and Frank into senior elders. As a sideshow, I shall also complete my own initiation into their tribe.

I have drunk fresh blood before. It would be fair to say that it's not my favourite tipple. The taste of warm blood is not at all bad. It's mixed with milk into a sort of smoothie and the flavour of the milk dominates over the blood. However the texture is challenging. The warriors whisk the blood furiously to prevent clotting, with only partial success. Globules of clotted blood can be a bit difficult to swallow. Best to drink it quickly before more form.

It's difficult to prepare myself for this. Black pudding is about as close as I can get. But I shouldn't fret. I am sure blood milkshakes are very healthy - after all the Maasai look pretty good on them. I may even repair some of the Mojito-induced liver damage from Barcelona last week.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A letter to my friend Daudi who was killed last night

 “The good die first, and they whose hearts are dry as summer dust, burn to the socket.”   William Wordsworth

There is only one question – Why?

Why was one of the kindest, gentlest people taken so young, so suddenly and so violently?  

Regrettably your passing will not cause many ripples in a world of 6 billion souls, obsessed as we are with self, wealth and celebrity. But for that tiny proportion of humanity that knew you, this is an immeasurable loss. Your quiet loyalty as a friend has been more valuable than a thousand fake smiles and greetings.

If I ever introduced you to other friends I would say you were the most generous person I had ever met.  I stand by that assertion today. Life did not deal you a great hand, you strived and struggled for the little you had in the material realm. Yet for ten years, whenever I came to Zanzibar you would turn up at my home with gifts. I have appreciated them all – especially the wonderful shells and carvings. You should have sold them to wageni to make some money, but you chose to give them as presents. I shall never forget that. For one with so little to be so generous  is rare in this life. That spirit of kindness will live on in the hearts of the people who knew you. It is a greater legacy than wealth or fame.

I have been lucky enough to have met and known a range of people all over the world – presidents and princes, criminals and terrorists and all that goes between. I love meeting people and having a wide circle of friends of all races, ages and persuasions. You stood out. You had a very special heart and that is not easily forgotten wherever I am or whoever I am with.

It was only last month that I saw you on the East Coast. You described me as your best friend and I felt both touched and unworthy. You patiently went through the shells my mother had found on Michamvi Beach – very modest compared to what you would collect – and picked out and cleaned the best ones for her. Few words and small deeds but again not forgotten.

What happened to you last night was terrible and unjust. You were a true brother. We will try to do what we can for your family during these dark times and in the future.

 Daudi Armando RIP

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Lemmy RIP - Motorhead Tribute

One of my favourite videos ever - my nieces in their Motorhead tribute. RIP Lemmy.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Peace to almost all the World at Christmas

At peace with almost all the world as I listen to the carols from much better than the happy-clappy Christingle nonsense on offer at the local church.

Makes me recall Charles Ryder's words in Brideshead when he was drinking good and old wine and trying to forget his tedious dinner companion, Rex Mottram::

'A reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in its long passion had learned another wisdom than his.'

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

How to find video for learning

Just taken part in an online presentation for the ALT Winter Conference, talking about our new Edugraph service. It's a next generation tool for mapping all sorts of rich content for edu purposes at scale. I like it because it combines the best of human intuition and creativity with the latest in machine learning. Launching next year.

The Blackboard Collaborate platform worked seamlessly.

What Trump Should be Worrying About

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Final Toast to Jay Cross

Big respect to the organisers of the OEB Conference in Berlin next week for hosting a special session in tribute to Jay. His colleagues from the Internet Time Alliance will be celebrating his life and work as well as
showcasing his final book, Real Learning, which he had been planning to launch at OEB this year.

Many, many of his friends will be there. I am sure that it will be an uplifting occasion.

I will find it difficult to walk into the Marlene Bar next week and not see Jay there, holding court and holding a glass of Riesling.

Why Video needs its Grammar

“If we learn how something works, we can control it”

An article of mine published today looking ahead to the Masterclass I will be running at next week's OEB Conference in Berlin.

If educators learn some of the basics about how video works - and we have 120 years of film-making to draw from - they will be much more successful at engaging their students.

Thanks to ubiquitous video technology, there has never been a better time to experiment with, and master, video skills.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Jay Cross Tributes

It has been moving to read all the tributes to Jay.  David Kelly and Clark Quinn have curated collections of the many stories and appreciations.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Jay Cross RIP

There are many others better qualified than me to comment on Jay’s contributions to thinking and learning.  I can only add memory of the man and pay tribute to the enjoyable, illuminating conversations we shared over the past few years.

A conversation with Jay was like a magic carpet ride across a rich, ever changing landscape.  You would visit the past, the present and the future in any order. No detail of that landscape was out of bounds for Jay’s curiosity, experience and opinion.  And like all the best teachers, communicators  and inspirers, Jay understood the raw, simple power of stories.  That is how I like to remember him best, convivial, glass of Riesling in hand and telling one of his great stories.  Life and work, work and life – Jay was a true expert in and blender of the two.

For a succinct appreciation of Jay's work see

Photo by Rebekah Tolley 2014

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Why do we still say "lifestyle"?

"I don't have a lifestyle. I have a life."

Jane Fonda's line in Neil Simon's brilliant 1978  movie California Suite should have marked the end of that laziest of words, "lifestyle". It didn't. In fact the word has replicated like the most virulent parasite. Through the willing vectors of marketing and media we have all been infected by the idea that we have to aspire to a "lifestyle" and that we should focus our attention on making "lifestyle choices".  It's one of the most ubiquitous of the spray-on words that no marketing puff piece can be written without. As a result it becomes meaningless.

But 1978 is a long time ago and "lifestyle" has had plenty of time to mutate into more dangerous strains. The most sinister is its adoption by fundamentalist hate merchants as a way of condemning people who don't fit their narrow templates. Same sex couples, for example, choose a "gay lifestyle". That means they can be attacked. In the first place it assumes all gay people are the same and have an entirely uniform way of living -  no doubt they sit down with a selection of glossy magazines in order to make their lifestyle choice. But of of course that's not all, "gay lifestyle" is not used by these people in an airbrushed and aspirational way, no cosy connotations of stylish brunches in IKEA kitchens. It is hissed in hate-laden speech complete - as we have seen - with innuendo of perversion and child abuse. Trite and overused "lifestyle" has become a way of delivering modern day versions of the blood libel.

Driving along this morning listening to the radio I was reminded why "lifestyle", with its blend of the evil and the banal, should best be avoided. A BBC commentator on the usually precise Radio 4 was talking on Woman's Hour about the language of Ulster politics. It was a generally critical piece highlighting how different the election discourse is in Northern Ireland. Some of the sexist language and attitudes she referenced seemed a generation out of date and was quite shocking. So far so good. But then she used the phrase "the gay lifestyle" as if it was entirely accepted and carried no other meanings or implications. It is not.

To compound the irony, a couple of minutes later in one of those brilliant Radio 4 "now for something completely different" moments, the presenter talked about something that was "not a diet but a lifestyle choice". We were then given a recipe for sweet potato brownies. Sorry to be hard on you Woman's Hour but here were two lifestyles too many.