11 posts categorized "Travel"

February 23, 2015

Expectations #28daysofwriting

This is what they call a "forward" post. I wrote it yesterday, when I had wifi and time, and am posting under today's date. I have a (reasonable) expectation that I will be alive tomorrow, and that this will not, therefore, freak out anyone unduly.

In the early days of blogging with my school students, back in 2002/3, I'd use forward posting on the foreign trips we made because mobile access to blogging software on my Nokia was so expensive. At the time I gauged our expectations of living tomorrow high, but was young enough and foolish enough to forget that, should our coach have gone off piste 88 mums and dads, notwithstanding the rest of our families, would have been rather taken aback to see us "happily arrived in Caen", and not in the mortuary. 

Expectations are funny things. We all like to believe we have different expectations, but some of our expectations are just hardwired, like the pentatonic scale, into our beings. This year, the case was proven when I felt obliged, finally, to remove my kid from her local school and attempt to fund a better future in a local private school. The principle reason for this move, against many education bones in my body, was that state education in my neck of the woods feels like it has lost its sense of expectation for every kid. Our expectations are realistic, perhaps, and the intention of supporting all children to achieve will help the lower 20% become a much more able lower 20%. But there will always be a bottom 20%. And if our efforts are in setting expectations for the middle, all kids will  tend to aim a little below whatever we set them. In her new school, Catriona is flourishing, with expectations set at a stratospheric level and a hidden understanding that, really, the goal isn't to meet them at all. There's something else going on.

This ties into what we consider 'normal' expectations. My expectation of being alive tomorrow (today) when this is posted are high. I place trust in my pilots, my plane and my fellow passengers, not to do us any harm.

My expectations of living another day along with my students back in 2002 were equally high, but not entirely shared by nervously grinning colleagues when they knew what I had prepped for future-posted blog posts.

My expectations for my kids' own learning are stratospheric. At 4 and 7 years old, I expect them to be able to do anything that they want, as long as... and there is the tough bit. What are the conditions for expectations that mean some schools succeed in pitching them perfectly, and others, on a systemic level, fail completely?

This is not a pushy parent, or a doting dad post. This is all about helping my kids learn earlier than I did what Steve Jobs put thus:

"When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money...

"That's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact:

"Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build things that other people can use.

"Once you discover that, you'll never be the same again."

February 21, 2015

Crazy, stupid... innovation. The imperfect perfection of Tower Bridge #28daysofwriting

I've had a lovely week on holiday down in London with the family, being proper tourists. Under the dreich weather of Monday we ventured Thames-side and towards the terrifying but fun seethrough walkways of Tower Bridge. Along the side of the walkways were photographs of some of the world's great bridges, together with some of the history about how this iconic bridge came to be.

What did we learn?

This landmark, required to cope with the overwhelming population growth on either side of the river and increased river traffic to the upper parts of the Thames, was borne out of many, mostly failed, prototypes, most in the form of sketches.

Thank goodness we didn't stop at the first prototypes submitted to the public competition. The dual lock system would hardly have helped with the drastically increasing river traffic of the industrial revolution:


And a system of hydraulic elevators would have failed in the other sense, not really foreseeing 2015's automotive traffic needing a quick north-south crossing:


Some designers simply did without a bridge and went for the tunnel - perfect for traffic throughput in the longer term and not disruptive at all to the river traffic. In the end, though, it was feasibility that killed these tunnel ideas off - the runways required to descend human and horse-drawn traffic into them were so long that they ate up most of the land either side of the river:


As the final designer was chosen, even his first drafts were off the mark on the aesthetic side:


In the end, the rules for killing ideas and honing the kernels of interesting ideas down haven't changed since the bridge's completion in 1894 and today, as I describe them in my bookdesirability (do they want or need it?), feasibility (can we do it?) and viability (should we do it?).

The result, is an imperfect perfection that we recognise in an instant:


December 22, 2010

Beating the recession by working internationally: 2010's Travel in Review

A year ago yesterday I started NoTosh Limited, a to-the-point, action-based consultancy for digital media and education arenas, which has proven far more successful than I had hoped. Here's hoping 2011 is just as successful (actually, no, our target is to double revenues with some new stars on our team).

Crucial to this velocity has been the acceptance of overseas clients (thank you all so much!) to take a risk and have us over to inspire, cajole or troubleshoot. Plenty of their stories will appear on a new NoTosh.com site in the New Year. Exporting our skills makes up around 65% of revenue.

But this has also meant a fair level of travel; the last quarter of the working year saw me personally undertake 56 flights, covering the world two and a half times. This year, I've travelled 106,372 miles on Seat 53F (big, modern aircraft), compared to a much more tiring 41,902 miles of Extreme Commuting that I did while working for Channel 4 in 2009 (on seat 23C -smaller aircraft, less efficient, more carbon). The nature of that travel wasn't easy to handle, and noted when I was leaving the company last year. 2008, back when I was doing more educational stuff, saw some 82,000 miles.

A colleague told me that every time you do a transatlantic flip you experience the same radiation as a chest x-ray, so neither I nor my current or future colleagues leave our families and jump on a plane lightly. We do so because we believe in our work, that it will make a difference to thousands of students lives and that this will far outweight the environmental impact we're having.

Not content with that, though, we're announcing a pro bono project in the New Year which will more than make up for our own airmiles (and probably all of yours, too, dear readers). Planting trees with Carbon Credits doesn't solve the problems we're creating today at all - it's going to take 20 years for their impact to be felt. So we're planning something far more here-and-now, that will take the edge of all those miles.

Until the New Year, and notwithstanding a blog post or two inbetween, best wishes for the festive season from a thankfully Edinburgh-based, airline-free Ewan!

December 13, 2009

Extreme Commuting: 2009 Travel in Review

Ewan McIntosh Travel Map 2009
Doing anything three times or more on a blog almost makes it annual custom, so I wasn't going to disappoint. This year's travel was about 50% less in mileage than in 2008: 41,902 miles compared to 2008's 82,000 miles or so. But the map's not a global one. It's highly localised. Something's up.

While fewer miles have been flown, most of this travel has been done in what Mark Penn spotted a decade ago and coined as "Extreme Commuting". That is, I've been one of a couple of hundred people who regularly make the commute from Scotland to London each and every week for work, often coming back within 18 hours of leaving home. It's a trend that, thankfully, is becoming less and less common as companies feel the economic pain of sending someone around the world for face-to-face time. In January I noticed that my plane was less about 30 suited and booted regulars from the previous six months. By August, they had been replaced by tourists filling up cheap seats on their way home to the States and the Far East.

Extreme commuting is tiring by its regularity, bad food at weird times, and the sneaking suspicion that your constantly stuffed-up nose is related to the circulated air you consume four times a week. You feel hungover for the day before and after your extreme commute, regardless, I'm afraid to say, of how much fun with a bottle of shiraz you have actually had.

Heading into the new year, I'm not sure the amount of travel will decrease too much, but it will be on longer adventures, to hotter places, and just a few of them. Some of them, dear reader, might even be to see you. Bring on 2010.

December 04, 2005

Paris - Les Blogs

Arrived in Paris on Friday night - late - and then spent another hour the wrong side of airport security as the one and only passport control monsieur checked us out with particular attention. The following morning I had a chance to walk around the Seine and Champs Elysées area, taking photos for the MFLE's Photo Bank of 'typical' French things. Got a strange look or two as I snapped street signs and metro plans. It's so much nicer to be a tourist in Paris than to be a worker. Normally on a Saturday morning when I worked here I would be round at a Space Shuttle Research Institute giving lessons in English. No, really, I would have been.

Off on the 12.40 to Rouen where Andy and I caught up over a pint at O'Kallaghans before heading home for an evening's raclette. Today, Sunday, we're croissanting and pain-au-chocolating with plenty of coffee (little Matthew was up yelling at 6am) before going to the Christmas Market at the Cathedral. More photos tonight of that.



My mate Andy

Emilie and Flo and the famous raclette machine

November 04, 2005

Language Show 2006

Had a great time today in London at the Language Show in Olympia. Got some really nice feedback from the audience and made to feel very welcome. I promise I'll put up more details on the presentation on Sunday. Tomorrow (Sat) is the SALT conference and I just can't believe that six hours after arriving back in Edinburgh I've got to be on the move again to Stirling. Let's hope tomorrow's Scottish audience is as enthusiastic as the international one I had this afternoon.

October 29, 2005

White Van Man Brings Me Home

I have been away from the Internet for over a week now and am proud to say that I survived. Indeed, it's given me a chance to be relatively normal and talk to people. Today I am grateful to Ollie Bray in his stupendous White Van and to Caroline for her scintillating (and slightly hungover) chat for bringing me back safe and sound from Dundee. I was speaking at the Hilton (very good lunch) and Ollie was up in the University speaking about Geography stuff. As expected, he found me at the station (good at the navigation stuff, these geographers) and was kind enough to cut an hour off my journey home to Auld Reekie.

So what have I been up to this last week and a half? Most of it in Austria working with Jamie, Claire and their Austrian counterparts on a joint project. Got lots of good film clips for the MFLE about blogging, podcasting and making digital video on the move and in collaborative groups. They were speaking great German to communicate with Russians, French, Austrians and Americans (though the latter was admittedly more anglophone comms than anything else).

More on that later. In the meantime, I leave you with Ollie and his Van as they left me in Leith tonight (Caroline can be seen hiding under the dash).

October 16, 2005

Polish lesson Part II

Spent a great morning with Beata and her husband Janik (which, I learned through my Polish lessons, means “Little John” – there are apparently 25-odd other versions which I cannot and will not go into now, leaving that for another visit, perhaps one to learn some more Polish). Also present was 8 (and-a-half) year old Julia, Beata and Janik’s daughter number two, who speaks French with an accent I would be proud of, understands this Scotsman’s elaborate English with apparent ease and who says prszeprasam (please) and djinkuje (thank you) at every opportunity. She’ll go far. Her older sister was going to arrive at Krakow Balice at the same time I was about to leave, coming back from a £14,000 scholarship to learn through English (CLIL en place, if you will) and who looks like she is on the way to a second year in Ipswich doing much the same. Another Pole to look out for, methinks.

Beata and I worked on the geoblogs project together and are trying to find something else that might work. This morning was spent sharing our photos and talking about all the wonderful places both of us would like to visit in the future. But an exchange will happen soon. Trust me on that.

We had a coffee in a cool little café down a pasaz. On leaving we heard the most atmospheric street music for this cold and crisp season. I recorded some on my mobile phone Quicktime:

Download Record000.amr

After a quick stroll back round the city walls they were kind enough to deliver me to the airport – so no more of that mad Krakow coach driving that seemed to get me there on time but put me at more risk than seemed reasonable.

Amber in Krakow

Spent a lovely morning in the market place at Rynik square, buying some amber (discovered green amber, very nice). Here are some photos. I am about to go and meet Beata who helped so much in putting together the geoBlogs geography online project. Hopefully after a cup of warming coffee we will come up with another great idea for next year's students. This time, though, I'll have to find someone who is wanting to do a similar kind of project with this great Polish school with me not in the classroom at the moment.

A collage of devotees' face making up a 50 foot high Pope John Paul

Krakow's main cathedral in the Rynik

Amber shopping on Sunday morning


At the old city walls


Trams variae at the hotel entrance


5* Geekdom

October 15, 2005

With mind implosion nearing: a night in Krakow

Well, after a gruelling 10 hours of conferencing I was ready for a night out in the city. After a few Becherovkas Tonic I excuse myself for any typos, but here are some great images from the night, including a wedding taking place at 10pm in the main market square of Krakow. Just fantastic.





About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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