Saturday, February 24, 2007

First week at Timberley

A few posts back, I mentioned I had got a new job - a PPA (teacher prep time) coverage position at Timberley Primary School. My job would be to take over a teacher's classroom for half the day while they do their preparation, planning, and marking elsewhere. Having had my own class in September, I understand how precious this time-out-of-class is.

Before lunch, the lessons I teach include Numeracy (Maths) and Literacy. After lunch it seems to be Geography and Religious Education! Yup, good old RE! (One lesson had the children draw pictures of what Jesus looked like! Apparently sometimes he needed swords and clubs in his ministry!)

I am finding that the teachers tend to give me the lesson plan on the day, so that I can quickly read it and teach it....kinda a skill. Unfortunately, my dream of "no prep/no marking" was quickly crushed, as I now have to mark the lessons I teach (which kinda makes sense...)

The coolest thing about Timberley is that last Thursday they held a disco for the kids! Pumping loud music, sweets and hot dogs and pizza, and everyone dancing their heart out - all the children got to dress up in their dance/posh clothes and have a good time. Who says school is all about reading, writing, and arithmetic?! Its also about rhythm, rocking, and rolling!!!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Double Feature

I when to the movie theater last night and saw two films: Blood and Chocolate and Hot Fuzz.

Blood and Chocolate is a dark simple film about werewolves in Bucharest, Romania. A gorgeous werewolf girl falls in love with a penniless comic book artist, but she is destined to be the mate of the Head of the Pack, King Werewolf! Whatever will she do? Well, you'll need to watch it to find out. All I'll say is that there is lots of blood in the movie, but no chocolate... which is blatant false advertising! 3/5 stars.

If Blood and Chocolate was the appetizer, than the main attraction was Hot Fuzz! I've been excited to see Hot Fuzz for the last 4 months since I moved to England. It is the next film made by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright - the guys who made Shawn of the Dead a few years back. They also made a fantastic TV show called Spaced.

As Shawn of the Dead was a send up of zombie movies, Hot Fuzz pays homage to action movies (Bad Boys, Point Break, Lethal Weapons, Die Hards, Matrix, and Clint Eastwoods are all mentioned!)

It stars Pegg as police officer Nicholas Angel who is transfered from London to the small town of Sandford because his record was 400% better than the rest of the London Met and he was making them look bad! So he's off to the small town where the worst thing that happens is that the swan escapes... or is it?

He soon partners up with Frost's bumbling small-town cap Danni Butterman to solve murders using as many guns and explosions as possible! Not only is there a ton of action in Hot Fuzz, there is also a hilarious film ("By the power of Grayskull!" is used twice!). Is it better than Shaun of the Dead? At this point, I'd say yes! It captures everything you love about the buddy cop action films from the 80's-90's, and brings it to the next comedy level!

Best film of the year! far (it's only February!) Hot Fuzz 6/5 kick-ass stars!

Where there is smoke...

So my house has not burnt down and I am still alive. I was never really in mortal peril, but it's not everyday that the building two doors down catches fire!

The firemen did their job and put out the fire, leaving a charred pile of burnt furniture on the sidewalk.
The resulting husk of the burnt-out building....umm...looks fine?

In fact, it is hard to tell that there was a fire in this building at all! Obviously the bricks did their jobs and contained the fire (80% of Birmingham's buildings are made of brick!)

Free firewood, anyone?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Do you smell smoke?

It is 11:00 pm here in the UK, and the building two doors down from me is on fire.

After hearing shouts and sirens, I poked my head out the door and was greeted with a spectacle of flashing lights and the smell of smoke. Fire trucks were stopped outside of my house with crowds of tipsy merry-makers from the Legion pointing and gasping. So I went inside and grabbed my camera!

Firemen entering the house

The house two doors down had a plume of white smoke pouring from the roof. Fire fighters in full gear observed the situation, then busted into the boarded up building. Smoke billowed out of the open door and hoses were brought in. The building was empty and had just been sold.

The firetrucks outside the Legion

Smoke and lights fill the house on fire.
My house is behind the white car!

The situation is still ongoing, and I'll update you all once it's finished. I should be safe...

Albany Road - completely blocked off

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day to Paleontologists!

Well, I've discovered my new love ...... and she is Primeval, a new show on ITV in Britain! It is a new sci-fi show where scientists discover rifts in time and have to deal with the creatures that escape and run havoc! Check out the official website here.

The first episode (which you can see on YouTube here) has the group of scientists deal with monsters from the Permian period - Scutosaurus and a Gorgonopsid! Next week's episode guest stars bugs from the Carboniferous! You guessed it: Arthroplura and Giant Spiders!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Born this Day: Charles Darwin

Happy Darwin Day, everyone!

born: February 12, 1809

Today marks the 198th birthday of Charles Darwin, the naturalist who explained the theory of evolution through natural selection. His famous book, On the Origin of Species, revolutionized modern biology and the World - showing how all organisms are related! A short video about Charles Darwin's life can be seen here.

To celebrate the birth of Darwin, I will relate my visit to his birthplace - Shrewsbury. Way back in the beginning of November, I took a tour of the Midlands area with Kate, Renata, and their friend during my first half-term break. It was such a thrill to visit this small English town and to stand outside the front door of the house in which Darwin was born!
Darwin's front door!

Shrewsbury high street

The Darwin Gate - strange memorial to the great man...

Myself, Kate's friend, and Kate under Darwin's Gate

Walking through this beautiful town, you start to notice Darwin everywhere: Darwin's Gate, Darwin High School, Darwin Street, Darwin Manhole Cover, ....... even Darwin Shopping Center!
Come shop at the Darwin Shopping Center - "Evolution: half-price!"

Then I found the man himself! Charles Darwin was sitting in a chair outside the local college. After asking him permission, I was allowed to get a picture of Darwin and myself. One more of Life's little things to cross off my List!

Me 'n' Charles!

Interestingly, this same statue was going to be placed in London's Natural History Museum in the most important position on the main staircase. Unfortunately, when the statue was placed high up, Darwin's shoe looked so large that it dominated the view! Darwin's shoe overshadowed Darwin! And so it was that Sir Richard Owen took Charles Darwin's rightful central spot, and Darwin was relegated to the museums cafeteria!
Darwin's Infamous Shoe

Happy Birthday, Big Guy!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

One Year Later - One Rockin' Band

As some of you may know, my sister -Lisa- is the lead-singer of the North Vancouver band One Year Later! About a week ago, they played at the Buffalo Club:

Luckily, someone recorded them playing one of their songs, and Lisa has posted the video on her myspace site. Please check it out here! (You'll need to scroll down.) It rocks! I've also put it here, below. I am one proud big brother... other news, I joined my housemates in participating in the "Harborne Mile." This event is a pub crawl which hits most pubs along Harborne High Street: Oneill's, The White Horse, Harborne Stores, The Vine, The Varsity... and some others. After drinking a pint in each, you tend to forget names of pubs! In the immortal words of the other world-famous North Van band, Spirit of the West:

"Well were good old boys, we come from Harborne,
drinkers and carousers, the best you've ever seen,
and this night by God, we'll drink till there was no more,
from Oneill's to the Varsity, and all stops in between!"

Cheers! Bottom's up!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow Day

Well the skies have opened and we've been covered by 15cm of the white stuff - snow! For those still in suspense, all the schools in Birmingham closed today...and will stay closed tomorrow! And the next week! (Though that's due to the half-term break, not the snow!)

So how did I celebrate my day off? Well, I slept in! After a strange dream of running around with police and playing tag with a hula-hoop (I don't know why!), I woke up to the cold - the boiler was off again! Called the landlord and he came over and fixed it again...We shall see how long this 'fix' will last.

After watching Little Miss Sunshine (which was hilarious!) my roommates came back early and we all decided to head to the pub where it was nice and warm. It's been a few hours and a few pitchers since then and I am feeling a bit wobbly as I write this.

I also picked up a bunch of travel guidebooks from the library today, so I'm going to spend tomorrow reading up on Spain, Portugal, Greece, and the UK. This is because decisions need to be made. Plans are coming together: after traveling somewhere for a bit in July and August, I'm going to meet up with my good friend Greg (from Vancouver) in Lisbon, Portugal! We are going to experience Spain and it's tomato festival before doing a bit of London sight-seeing. Can't wait!

Until then I'll be enjoying my time off in the snow!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Day in the Life of a Brummie

Well today's been an interesting day in the life of Me: Birmingham Resident.
It all began with a flame...

The flame I mean is the one inside the boiler tank of my flat. It went out yesterday, leaving the six roommates without hot water or, more importantly, heat. Heat isn't usually a problem, but on this night of nights, the temperature outside had dropped to a chilly -4 C and the house was-a-cold!

After a chilly start to the day (boy did I want to stay in my warm cozy bed), I took the hour-long bus ride to Timberley School to find I would be teaching reception this morning. For those not English, reception = kindergarten! What a blast! It was Cameron's 5th birthday, so we all sang and hugged. Then we read Jack and the Beanstalk and put the story in order! Then it was Numeracy (or maths or math for the non-English) and we spent the entire lesson cutting out shapes with scissors! And without cutting or stabbing anyone!
The afternoon was in the dreaded year 4 class that I don't like...but I won't talk about it as it frustrates me.

After a good day at work, I enjoy a good commute home. Unfortunately, someone HAD to call in a bomb scare in the conference center and the police HAD to evacuate and seal off the downtown core of Birmingham, making my bus detour around the entire city. This added 30 minutes to my commute...not so bad considering if it was a real bomb!

This leads me up to now, where any second the skies will open and we shall receive our first big snowfall! We have a heavy snow warning out there and it is set to fall all night and into the morning commute, paralyzing Brummies (who act very much like Vancouverites do when they get a little snow!) Should be a fun morning tomorrow...

...I'm kinda hopping school will be closed and I can play in the snow. Ah snow. And who says my life here in Brum isn't exciting!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ghostbusters news

Some of you may remember when I posted an idea of making a video game out of the Ghostbusters. Well, someone has seen the light and gone and done just that!

Click on the picture to enlarge it!
Ray, Peter, Egon, and Winston are all there...and check out the updated Ecto-1!

Not only was this picture created, but also a prototype of the actual gameplay was released onto YouTube. Check it out below:

It is certainly not what I was expecting, but any Ghostbusters game will make me happy! Now don't get your hopes up too high. It seems the company making this game has hit a snag with obtaining the intellectual property rights to the Ghostbusters, so who know when it will be released.

And that's not all! A recent article states that there will be a third Ghostbuster movie!!! That's right! Dan Aykroyd has stated that Ghostbusters 3 will happen as a computer animated movie, with Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray doing their voices.
These are two great pieces of Ghostbusters news!!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Movie Buff

It is true. I do love films! I just saw The Fountain and was thrilled by its direction style. I found this quiz online and had to take it. I recommend you do too!...
Your Movie Buff Quotient: 84%

You are a movie buff of the most obsessive variety. If a movie exists, chances are that you've seen it.
You're an expert on movie facts and trivia. It's hard to stump you with a question about film.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

New Job?

It always feels nice to be offered a job, doesn't it? Especially if you've just left one that sucked. Hurray! This is me today!

I had a 'trial day' today at a large primary school called Timberley, doing PPA coverage (basically I cover one lesson in different teacher's class throughout the day, while the teachers have their preparation time.) I have been doing the same job for the past two weeks at Nonsuch Primary school and have really enjoyed it - no preparation, no marking, and experience with different year groups and classroom teaching styles.

My experience today went quite well, with Timberlake being much stricter and having a better Head Mistress than Jervoice, my first school! The position I was offered today was to do PPA coverage for Monday to Thursday beginning Feb. 19 until Easter Break.

And so, I took the job!