Tuesday, 30 June 2009

How to set up a tag cloud

It's all the rage now; everyone wants it, and you see it just about everywhere. I'm not one for fads, but I have to admit that a tag cloud looks so much more chic than the boring straight-laced labelling that blogger provides. And it occupies less space, too!

If you're one of those who still hasn't figured out how to do it, it's not that difficult. I'd explain it here, but phydeaux3 does it so well, I suggest you surf on there, and if you have any problems, let me know.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Pay Bags

When I first came to this island, one of the things that really bothered me was the incessant consumption of plastic bags. I would go into the supermarket with my rucksack with the intention of dumping all the stuff in there only to have the cashier, who was quicker than me, putting in the bananas into one plastic bag, then the lettuce onto another, then the eggs go into yet another...well, you get the picture.
When you consider that plastic bags take between 500 and 1,000 years to degrade, you wonder how this has been permitted to carry on for as long as it has.
In the UK, an estimated 13 billion carrier bags are given away each year (source: BBC), and back in Feb 2008, PM Gordon Brown warned retailers that he would force them to cut down on plastic bag use if they did not act voluntarily. Today, according to the BBC, the Welsh Environment minister Jane Davidson was expected to announce proposals which would see shops charge 15p per bag as part of plans to cut down use of bags.In the US, San Francisco became the first city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets in March 2007.
Now, here in Spain, whose consumption of bags is estimated at 238/person/year, according to El Mundo, Carrefour plans to stop giving away single-use carrier bags in its Spanish stores.
What action do you personally take to combat this problem? Many dump the bags in the yellow plastic recycling containers; but, do they really get recycled?

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Free Rice!

Believe it or not, 1 in 6 people do not get enough food to be healthy! Read it here. I found out quite by accident (thanks, Inma) that all of us can help and, at the same time, help ourselves! Free Rice is a website which, through the UN World Food Program, donates 10 grains of rice for every answer you get right in a simple quiz.

There are quizzes on several subjects, such as English grammar and vocabulary, Maths, and Geography. FreeRice was founded in October 2007 by John Breen, and since then, it has managed to donate a total of 65,837,346,060 grains of rice to the impoverished. So, if you have a few minutes to spare, and even if you don't, head over to Free Rice now!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Feedburner email subscription problems

Some of you might have noticed that I'd finally solved the problem with the subscription link. I thought I'd post it in case anyone else has similar problems.
I wasn't able to access Feedburner (now part of Google) in Firefox - the page kept refreshing. Even after clearing the cache and whatnot, it remained stubborn. When I tried with Internet Explorer, it kept crashing.
So, I decided to reset IE, and hey presto, it worked!
In IE, click on tools, then Internet Options. Choose advanced, click reset and ok. A pop up warning appears. Click Reset.

Compulsory Masters of Education?

The UK government is planning on making a postgraduate qualification for teachers compulsory. Click on the above link to read more about it.
What do you think about it? Is it necessary at all? Would having a Masters in Education make a teacher better in the classsroom? Or would it be something which would chase would-be teachers away from the profession? I'd like to hear your opinion.

Friday, 26 June 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

Love him or hate him, you'd have to admit that he was one of the most talented singer/dancer in recent times. Now, he can rest in peace.
29 Aug 1958 - 25 June 2009

Thursday, 25 June 2009

How to make hyperlink open in a new window

This is for you bloggers out there. When you insert a link, by default it takes the browser away from your blog to the link. Ok, we know that by right clicking on the link, the user can choose to open the link in a new tab/window, but you probably also know that a significant percentage of users aren't aware of that. So, here's a way to force it to happen.

After writing up your post and inserting the link, click on EDIT HTML at the top. Look for the code where your link appears. Between the quotes and the greater than symbol, add target="_blank".

Be warned, however, that it has been claimed this code has been deprecated and is not XHTML compliant, but it still works for me. :-)
HTML, XHTML, and CSS All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

How to download videos from youtube, etc

Do you use as much audiovisual material in the classroom as I do? If so, and you still don't know how to download videos from the Net, here's a simple how-to.
1. Go to the site where the video is and copy the url. You don't have to complete the streaming.

CLICK on picture for a bigger image. hz7bqcje8k

2. Go here: http://keepvid.com/

3. Paste the url, and click on download.
4. You'll see a choice of 2 different file types for download. If you want a better quality image (bigger size), choose mp4.
5. Right click on it and select 'save link as'. Depending on your setup, this may appear as 'save target as' or something similar.
6. Browse to where you want to keep the file, give it a name, and you're done!
7. Note that if you don't have permission to download the file, keepvid will register an error .


W00t! I finally did it! You might have noticed that the layout of this page has been changing constantly. Well, I've finally solved the 2 things that were niggling me: I've managed to remove the header box and I've finally made the 3 column layout to work! If you're a wizard on HTML, please contact me!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Words You Love To Hate

Don't you have any words you just love to hate? I do. Quite a few, in fact. I would like to hear about your pet hates! I'll start with this:
w00t /wu:t/
I mean, how many words do you know that include 1 integer let alone 2, eh?
It is claimed to have originated from the online gaming world and/or hackers speak. Basically, it is used to express joy as in Whoopee! The 2 zeros stem from the growing tendency to use the numbers keypad to represent words, e.g. l8 (late) and m8 (mate).

Sounds of English

I normally like to do at least one Sounds of English lesson with my students- phonetics need not be boring! There are some English sounds not present in a language such as Spanish, and it's always a challenge to get the students to get them right. Sound files cannot, at the moment, be uploaded to blogger (it beats me, really), so I've done it quickly as a 'video'. It's something I first heard ages ago, but when I'm down, I listen to it and it perks me up! It's not something I've used in class, so here's an opportunity for everyone to hear it here! :-)

Sunday, 21 June 2009

John Martyn

One of my very favourite singer songwriter sadly passed away on 29 Jan 2009. Although he was well known among musicians, his music was seldom commercial enough to bring him to the attention of the general public. I urge those of you who haven't heard of this white man with a black man's soul to seek out some of his stuff. Below is an extract from a BBC programme which I got from youtube. His Scottish drawl might be hard to understand sometimes - perhaps Linda can transcribe. ;-P Further reading: http://www.johnmartyn.info/

Saturday, 20 June 2009


In my last class for 2ºESO and 3ºESO I did a quiz on U.K., which I'd mounted in PowerPoint. I'd prepared nearly 40 questions, increasing in difficulty as it goes along. The class was divided into groups of about 5, each being given 4 pieces of paper with the letters A, B, C and D. The idea was that they would show their answers at the same time. I thought the initial questions were quite easy, but they didn't find them so! And they were very rowdy!
The idea and the template could be adapted for quizzes of other nature, such as grammar, vocabulary, culture, etc. If students have a good level, it may be better to read the questions and just display the answers because what I observed was that they were reading the questions rather than listening to me. You can see the first 10 questions below.

For those interested, the ppt was converted to .mp4 using Camtasia Studio 6.


Hands up, those of you who compile lists! Most of us, I'm sure make up lists of some sort. I'd like to hear all about them!
I write my shopping lists on loose scraps of paper, but at the moment, my most important list is the 'To DO' list, which I store in a word document. Items which are done are ticked and struck across, but not removed. It's fantastic having it on a computer as I can constantly drag each item up or down according to their priority and whether it's been done or not.
One of my pending tasks was to catalogue my movies on this wonderful piece of software called Movie Collector, and I must admit I'm rather pleased to say I'm more or less done.
Here's a list of some recent films I've seen that I'd recommend (in no particular order):
Red Cliff Parts 1 & 2 (Dir: John Woo)
Wallace & Gromit - A Matter of Loaf and Death (Dir: Nick Park)
The Dark Knight (Dir: Christopher Nolan)
Kung Fu Panda (Dir: John Stevenson, Mark Osborne)
Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Dir: David Fincher)

Ok, so they're not all that recent... but needless to say, I have a list of fims to be seen, which just grows and grows...

Giant stuffed courgettes

Have you seen a courgette (US: zucchini) of this size?

Pilar, my wife, brought it back the other day, saying that Chago had given it to us.

Must be the biggest I've ever laid eyes on!

So, what do I do with it?

Well, those who know me know that I'm the kind who opens the fridge and see what's in there, then decide what to cook! So, here is what I came up with.


1 giant courgette
250g minced pork
100g mushrooms, washed & drained, diced
50g breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
some cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper
fresh coriander leaves, roughly cut
Put some oil in a frying pan.
Stir fry the onion, red pepper and garlic with some salt. I like my onions and red pepper well done, so I cook it until they're tender.
Add the minced pork. Toss it before adding the mushrooms.
Cut the courgette through the middle, lengthwise.
Scoop the flesh from the courgette and add it to the frying pan.
When the mix is fairly done, add the breadcrumbs, then the egg.
Turn the fire off.
Add some cheese (roughly broken up) and the coriander.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
It's advisable to salt the shells slightly because they're somewhat bitter.
Scoop the mixture into the empty courgette shells.
Top with some grated mozzarella cheese.
Place the courgette on an aluminium tray (greased with a little oil), and bake in a pre-heated oven @ 175ºC for 30 mins.

I served this with some spaghetti, which I tossed with some olive oil, chopped garlic and mushrooms.

Try it, and let me know!