Thursday, 25 December 2008

Season's Greetings!

Merry Christmas!

Yes, Christmas Day is here at last, and hopefully some of you are waking up this morning to find that Father Christmas has left you a copy of What is Myrrh Anyway? in your stocking!

I hope you all have a wonderful day and remember you can listen to me, Dom Joly and Danny Wallace deconstructing the midwinter feast on Radio 5 Live from 12 noon.

So we keep the olden greeting
With its meaning deep and true,
And wish a merrie Christmas
And a happy New Year to you.
(Old English saying)

Monday, 15 December 2008

If you liked Match Wits with the Kids...

... then why not try these similarly-inspired titles?

Homework for Grown-ups

Don't know your isosceles from your equilateral? Forgotten what actually happened in 1066? Do you know when you've left a participle hanging? And are you left slack-jawed when your children ask you what 'quid pro quo' means? Bewildered already? Fret no longer. Homework for Grown-ups swots up on mathematics (covering algebra, Pythagoras' theorem, prime numbers and the Fibonacci sequence), English grammar and literature (do you know how to read a poem?), chemistry and the sciences (including the Big Bang theory), geography (can you name the planets in order?), history (how to remember the kings and queens of Britain, plus the Romans and the Magna Carta), art, Latin, modern languages, PE, home economics, and much more. Packed with essential facts, figures and theories, along with fun but challenging test papers to keep you on your toes and reignite those dormant brain-cells, Homework for Grown-ups is a practical and wonderfully nostalgic revision guide for adults.
I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot from School

If you've forgotten the capital city of Chile; the basics of osmosis; how to solve a quadratic equation; the names of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice; who wrote the famous poem about daffodils; the use of a conjunction or the number of continents in the world, I Used to Know That will provide all the answers. A light-hearted and informative reminder of all the things that we learnt in school but have since become relegated to the backs of our minds, I Used to Know That features hundreds of important snippets of wisdom, facts, theories, equations, phrases, rules and sayings. It is a practical guide to turn to when an answer is eluding you, when helping a child with homework or preparing them for the new school year, or maybe just to brush up on trivia for the pub quiz. I Used to Know That covers English Language and Literature, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography and General Studies, so never again will you find yourself stumped!
My Grammar and I (Or Should That be 'Me'?): Old-School Ways to Sharpen Your English

For anyone who has ever had a problem with dangling modifiers and split infinitives, or for those who have no idea what these things even are, My Grammar and I provides all the answers. Taking you on a tour of the English language, through a veritable minefield of rules and conditions for the grammatically unaware, and highlighting the common pitfalls that every English language user faces on a day to day basis, My Grammar and I also offers amusing examples of awful grammar, while steering you in the direction of grammatical greatness. Factual and witty, My Grammar and I is the perfect gift for all English language sticklers for Christmas 2008.
I Before E (Except After C): Old-School Ways to Remember Stuff

'My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Porcupines' reminds us of the order of the planets in the Solar System. This is a compilation of memory aids guaranteed to simplify masses of confusing facts on numerous subjects, including rhymes, acronyms, rules, phrases and diagrams. It offers an eclectic mix of reference and nostalgia. It is the only book you'll ever need that features more mnemonics than you'll ever need to know. Something for everyone, the book covers a number of different subjects - history to mathematics, mythology to physics, music to the human body and many more. Ever find yourself struggling to remember simple facts and rules? Is the ever increasing pace of life and glut of information challenging your memory? I Before E (Except After C) is full of memory aids to help you out. From well-known rhymes such as the popular 'Thirty days hath September, April, June and November', memorable sayings including 'Spring forward, fall back', and mnemonics such as 'Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain', to a selection of more modern methods of boosting one's failing memory, I Before E is the definitive guide to help you to unjumble your mind and improve your ability to recall names, dates, facts, figures and events, and contains all the mnemonics you'll ever need to know.
Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November): The History of Britain in Bite-Sized Chunks

Britain and its people have a long and noble history that is now over 2000 years old. Like all the best stories it is one of blood, death, love, sex and betrayal, yet also a tale of courage, honour, pride, skill, invention, endurance and, sometimes, just pure luck. Remember, Remember is a history of Britain in bitesize chunks, containing all of the important dates, people and events that we should know, reminding us of what we've forgotten from school and perhaps teaching us something new.Go back in time to: sneer at Bad King John as he is forced to sign the Magna Carta; suffer the agonies of the black death; charge with Henry V against the French at Agincourt; see the birth of the Industrial Revolution; watch the coronation of the nineteen-old-princess who gave us the term 'Victorian'; and take heart from the courage and endurance of the men who fought and endured the horrors of both world wars. Concise, authoritative yet wonderfully entertaining, Remember, Remember makes history interesting and accessible for everyone once again.
Thirty Days Has September : Cool Ways to Remember Stuff

This book provides handy tips - literally. Discover how to use your knuckles to remember which months have 31 days, and your thumb and finger to tell right from left. Find out how to use your fingers to help you master the nine times table.Employ excellent spelling solutions for pesky words such as 'difficulty', 'because' and 'Mississippi'. Forgetting will become history as you learn when Christopher Columbus sailed to America: In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue and found this land, land of the Free, beloved by you, beloved by me. And don't forget those helpful mnemonics: Vowels - Albert's Elbow Is Often Ugly; Planets - My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas; Music - Every Good Boy Deserves Favour; and, Spelling - I before E, except after C. Sometimes tried and tested ways really are the best.

And then of course there is...
Match Wits with the Kids: A Little Learning for All the Family

How does photosynthesis work? Who was the first Tudor king? What is a preposition, or a conjunction? What causes a tsunami? If you're caught In flagrante delicto what has happened? And how do you calculate the area of a triangle? Answering all the questions you're afraid to admit you need to ask, Match Wits with the Kids covers all the key school subjects - Maths, English, Science, History, Geography and languages. Jonathan Green, a highly experienced teacher and popular author, provides in a nutshell everything you need to refresh your memory. Including tests to see if you've taken it all in, Match Wits with the Kids is a lot of fun - and the ideal read for anyone feeling threatened by know-it-all children.

Happy shopping.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Punished over push-ups

I read today that a schoolteacher has been suspended after making his pupils do push-ups as a punishment for arriving late to class.

This, naturally, raises all sorts of issues and you can read more about them here. H0wever, two things interested me in particular about this story.

1) Different punishments for latecomers had been discussed by the whole class and that it was the pupils who had suggested push-ups.

2) This all happened at Derby Moor Community Sports College.

So kids who go to sports college are discouraged from taking part in extra physical activities are they? Have the people involved in this teacher's suspension forgotten the old adage, 'a healthy body, a healthy mind'?

Academy: A modern school where football is taught. - Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) - The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Meet Radio 5 Live's Christmologist - at Acton Christmas Fair

I will be at Acton Christmas Fair, this Saturday, 6 December, from 11.00am until 6.00pm, selling and signing copies of my book, What is Myrrh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.

I will also be happy to (try to) answer your Christmas questions. And you can hear me doing just that on Christmas Day, at midday, on Radio 5 Live's Dom and Danny Do Christmas.
So, maybe I'll see you there.