Thursday, 23 August 2007

Laistrygonians

I borrowed this picture of the Penteli fire from Katterina on Flickr who tells me, when I asked her permission, that it was taken with a digital zoom from a roof top terrace in Kifissia. It seems as if the trees blown in the etesian wind, their leaves wetted by the firefighters, are trying uselessly to flee. The air is full of smoke and spray, the noise of the helicopter and the flames. I remember Kifissia, and Ekali beyond, as places to escape the heat of the city, where land values reflect the area's desirability. If trees in any of these areas are burned down, the area ceases to be forest. It becomes available for building [See this story in Kathimerini and my comments earlier on the lack of Structure Plans in Greece to define strategic land use]. Amy and Liz just got back from the cottage in Lydbrook in Gloucestershire. They had a long conversation with our friend Steve Outram and learned the news of the death, some weeks ago, of the son of the man who has helped trim some of our trees. He was doing a job at the bottom of the village and fell but was suspended 25 feet up by his harness. His chainsaw severed an artery. They both took such care with safety. His father had to watch while waiting for the rescue services. At Llandrindod Wells yesterday to discuss further work with the Fire and Rescue Services in Wales. That was a journey of three hours both ways on the train through lovely countryside. Meeting today on campus to plan the course with the Japanese in October, and a chance to chat with other colleagues. Letter to Australia re prospect of running some workshops in Queensland next May. Evening in Ilkeston on Monday with councillors doing a workshop on scrutiny. We had especial fun with the view that off all evidence 'personal experience' is the least reliable:
Hierarchies of evidence from 'What Works? Evidence-based policy and practice in public services. Eds. Huw Davies, Sandra Nutley & Peter Smith (Policy Press, 2000) - Box 3.3, p.48 1. Systematic review & meta-analysis of two or more double blind randomised control trials 2. One or more large double blind randomised control trials 3. One or more well conducted cohort studies 4. One or more well conducted case control studies 5. A dramatic uncontrolled experiment 6. Expert committee sitting in review; peer leader opinion 7. Personal experience
Continued revamping the chapter on leadership. Took my back-up laptop into Apple yet again to get the thing working. It's been playing up for the last 10 days but is still in the protection plan - so no cash outgoing. Attended the first meeting at St.Silas' Church in Lozells of the Lozell's Neighbourhood Board. I mentioned my reservations about the census based statistics about the area, suggesting we needed our evidence before we signed up to performance targets. Two years ago on 22 and 23 October rumour amplified by a couple of pirate disk jockeys, the credulousness of a few resentful people caused mayhem and the murder of young Isaiah Young-Sam by a gang of young men hardly older than him. We meet again in October. Elytis' Axion Esti arrived today, and at last I saw a photo of the great Philhellene, Edmund Keeley. I am struck by the coincidence that my memorable history teacher at Westminster, long ago, had that same name - first name Charles - and was perfect in Latin and Greek - though in his case, ancient. He would lie on the round table in the room where we assembled and spin round on its polished surface, and then say something, in a gentle high pitched voice, like "So - the Albigenses!" Then we would perhaps read a text - he or one of us and then talk, talk, talk - of their heresy, strange ideas fostered by views on human depravity, and their burning alive at the hands of authority fearful their views on the sinfulness of sexual intercourse, whether of humans or any species, would extinguish the human race. My Iraqi friend asked whether he should buy a colour printer in the Middle East or get one here. I replied that Lin was pretty confident we could get him one for nothing, along with other necessities, via Freecycle. The news from Iraq is as expected by pessimists. In the mail are letters to Dhiaa's address in Jordan with the various recommendations he will need as he sits across a desk from the UK Visa office in Amman. He has passed the requirements of the International English Language Testing System. His fees are waived and CARA offers living expenses. We have initial accommodation for his family arranged in Birmingham. I'm reading The Fratricides by Nikos Kazantzakis.

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