Teacher Humour: Why spelling matters

By Gordon Rugg

If one of your students ever complains that you’re making too much fuss about correct spelling…



(Image used under fair use terms, as a humorous low-resolution copy of an image already widely circulated)

If you want a more detailed explanation, this previous article goes into more depth (but is less artistically striking…)



New cultural experiences

By Gordon Rugg

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m interested in striking music. As regular readers of this blog will also know, I have a sense of humour that occasionally wanders into areas of unhallowed eldritch horror that would probably have been better left alone.

Today’s post includes both themes.

The link below is to some Tuvan throat singing, accompanied by a range of instruments; it’s striking and elegant.


The next link is to a crossover between classic blues and Tuvan singing and music; some listeners (including myself) think that it’s brilliant, but others vehemently disagree.


The last link is to a crossover that was not such a good idea, namely throat singing combined with rap music. Much though I would like to describe it, like the famous quote about Wagner’s music, as not being as bad as it sounds, honesty compels me to remain silent…


I hope that at least one of these experiences brightens your day.


Genghiz Khan meets modern music

By Gordon Rugg

Regular readers of this blog will know that my tastes include an occasional penchant for dark humour. In that spirit, today’s article is about Genghiz Khan in popular Western culture.

For some reason, he inspired not only a film so bad that it’s now a much-cherished classic (until you’ve seen John Wayne playing Genghiz Khan, you haven’t savoured the true depths of bad movies) but also a song which is legendary for its kitschiness even by Eurovision standards. That song is the topic of this article, though I’ve detoured slightly into a mention of Barbara Cartland towards the end. If you wish to read more, you know what sort of unhallowed ground you will be entering…

bannerSources for the original images are given at the end of this article

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The band with the tractor drum kit

By Gordon Rugg

If you’ve ever wanted to see a band with a tractor drum kit, accompanied by the Red Army Choir and Russian dancers in full national costume, performing “Delilah,” then here’s your chance…

The inimitable Leningrad Cowboys, poker faced as ever (unlike the dancers, who are clearly having the time of their lives, and who are also clearly trying very hard not to laugh).


200 posts and counting

By Gordon Rugg

Our earliest posts included a lot of tutorial articles about specific concepts and methods, such as graph theory and card sorts.

Our more recent posts have increasingly often featured broader overviews, and demonstrations of how concepts and methods can be combined. This has included a fair amount of material on academic craft skills, where we’ve looked systematically at how to turn abstract academic concepts such as “good writing” into specific detail.

We’re planning to continue this move towards the bigger picture in our posts over the coming year. We’ll look at how formalisms from knowledge modelling can make sense of a range of features of society, including belief systems and organisational systems.

On a more prosaic level, we’ll continue our tradition of offbeat humorous articles.

In that tradition, the closing part of today’s article is this inimitable quote; we hope it brightens your day.

“I don’t play a lot of tuba anymore. It’s not the most common or useful instrument. There’s a reason there’s not a lot of tuba in a heavy rock and roll band. I’m just glad I was able to use it to help people,” he says.

“At the end of the day, I was just at the right place at the right time with a sousaphone.”


Notes and links

There’s more about the theory behind this blog in my latest book:

Blind Spot, by Gordon Rugg with Joseph D’Agnese


Overviews of the articles on this blog:








Bad questionnaires, gender and ethnicity: When researchers achieve profundity by mistake

By Gordon Rugg

My usual response to badly assembled questionnaires involves a rant, followed by a dissection of the methodological issues involved and of various relevant bodies of theory.

Sometimes, though, a questionnaire manages to achieve a level of badness so extreme that it transcends its own awfulness.

Today’s example is one of those. It’s a question from an unidentified questionnaire. It’s asking about sexuality. It offers one option which you don’t usually see in this context. Admittedly, it’s probably the result of a copy and paste error, but that’s a minor detail. (Yes, I’m being ironic there…)

Anyway, here it is, in all its blighted majesty…

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Strange places

By Gordon Rugg

There’s a scene in the movie Byzantium where a vampire hesitates at a threshold, waiting for her intended victim to invite her inside. The setting is a run-down seaside town, out of season. It’s a scene that combines several types of unsettling strangeness, which makes it a good starting point for today’s article about strange places.

bannerv1Two boundary spaces: Image credits are at the end of this article.

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Some modest proposals for educational flexibility

By Gordon Rugg

[Spoiler and standard disclaimer for the literal-minded: This article is satirical, and I’m writing it in my personal capacity, not my Keele capacity. With that out of the way, let the satire begin…]

Whereupon I assured Benaiah that nothing was farther from my mind than the harbouring of wicked thoughts; also, that I was a family man with a positive outlook on the state and its institutions, be they military, administrative or religious.

Stefan Heym, The King David Report. Quartet Books, London, 1977, p.28

Education policy is in flux, so what can a career-minded or survival-minded education worker do to improve their prospects of promotion and/or of managing to survive in post until retirement?

This article contains some modest proposals for ways in which educators can:

  • Show that they have a positive outlook on the state and its educational institutions
  • Ensure that student feedback is excellent, and
  • Ensure that most of their students achieve above average results

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A cheering tale: The Gimli Glider

I like the story of the Gimli Glider. It’s a feel-good true story, for days when a person needs a feel-good true story; it’s invaluable as a case study for my students; it’s also good for putting problems into perspective on a hard day.

If the name gives you surreal images of a Middle-Earth dwarf wielding an axe in a sailplane, you might be relieved to learn that the reality is very different, though equally surreal in some ways.

It’s the true story of an airliner that ran out of fuel at 41,000 feet, because of a misunderstanding about whether it had been fuelled in litres or in pounds of fuel. At that point, it became the world’s largest glider. The co-pilot recommended an emergency landing at Gimli airfield, which he knew from his days in the Royal Canadian Air Force. The pilot landed successfully, largely because he happened to know a lot about flying gliders. Nobody died; everyone walked away, with feelings of disbelief and massive relief. Even by the standards of movies about fictional aircraft in jeopardy, it’s quite a story.

bannerImages from Wikipedia; details with attributions at the end of this article

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Exam season mood lifters

By Gordon Rugg

It’s exam season. Academics are feeling blue because they have to do piles of marking. Students are feeling blue because they’re dreading the results of that marking.

It’s a good time for a mood lifter.chingiz khan

Still from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amCeqrpYzes used under fair use principles, as a low-resolution still used for humorous purposes.

Here’s something that should brighten your day without demanding too much mental effort. It’s Japanese idols singing Dschinghis Khan. The song is indeed about the Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, whose name has an impressive number of variant spellings. It had its origins in Eurovision, in 1979, where it was performed by the band Dschingis Khan. I’ll draw a discreet veil over that experience. Anyway, here’s the Japanese idols version.


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