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By David Vance On May 28th, 2011 at 11:02 am

I read that questions are being asked about the future of the chief executive of Northern Ireland’s exam body as more damaging details about the use of public money are revealed.

Gavin Boyd, head of the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), has been earmarked to head up the new Education Skills Authority (ESA), which has yet to receive Assembly backing. However, he was embroiled in controversy this week after it emerged that CCEA hired a private aircraft to fly 30 members of the body from Belfast to Galway and that four of their conferences were held in Belfast hotels within walking distance of its Clarendon Dock headquarters. In addition to THAT it is revealed;

  • CCEA expenditure on items including accommodation, lunch and evening meal allowances was “significantly higher” than the rates specified in its policies.
  • The exams body used unapproved venues for events.
  • It breached procurement regulations.
  • Evidence of non-compliance with CCEA’s staff expenditure policy, travel policy and procurement policy.
  • Failed to provide explanation or documentary evidence for its non-compliance to auditors.
  • It can also be revealed that CCEA appointed an interim management team without written approval from the Department of Education and as a result of the irregularity its annual accounts for 2009/10 have yet to be published.

Mr Boyd has presided all of this and yet, amazingly, he is handpicked as THE man to head up Northern Ireland’s Education future.He enjoys a massive salary. He is opposed to academic selection. You just couldn’t make it up.


Its all in the best possible taste!

By Mike Cunningham On May 27th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

And the moral of this particular story is: if you are going to be photographed with your brand-new Royal husband and the wife of the American President whilst wearing your favourite High Street production, and in the process giving British retailers a big boost, it might be a good idea for your newly-recruited staff to find out if the dress in question was produced to, er, shall we say ‘Ethical Standards’ of production?


By David Vance On May 27th, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Sorry to read that Jeff Conaway has died. I can still remember going to see Grease, all those eons ago. Great movie, great cast, and Jeff Conaway played a key role in it. As I understand, he was originally wanting the Travola role but ended up as Kenickie. Interestlingly, he married Olivia Newton John’s sister. He was also in the wonderful Taxi series, which I loved (esp Marilu Henner) He had a troubled life and has died at the age of 60.  Here is his big synchronised dance moment…

Memorial Day Weekend

By 33230715130361 On May 27th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

We Yanks will be celebrating Memorial Day Weekend which ushers in the summer season.  In some places and for some people  it is just a three day weekend.  But for most Americans it allows us to reflect upon those who died in service of the nation.  I plan on attending my town’s Memorial Day Parade with my family as usual.  We can expect the Fire Department trucks, the High School Band, Little League, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Police and Ambulance Vehicles and of course the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  Pure Main Street Americana.  Flags proudly waving and the great marching songs playing. 

My whole neighborhood, young and old, rain or shine, walk up to the village to stand on the sidelines and cheer.  And we’ll bow our heads in a moment of silence to remember the fallen soldiers, few of whom we now could specifically recall.  We’ll gather in the small park by the Civil War Memorial.  Some of the fallen lie buried in the cemetery across the river and up on a hill that overlooks the village.   Others are buried in  far away fields in foreign lands.  Still some others never found to be buried at all.   But we will take the time to remember their sacrifice, and then return to the homes and lives they helped make safe for us.

Dinner and a Movie: Rio Bravo

By Patty On May 27th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Rio Bravo is a 1959 American Western with a great story, a tight script,  and a stellar cast. John Wayne plays “Chance,” a righteous Sheriff in the Wild West. Dean Martin plays “Dude,” a recovering drunk. Eccentric Walter Brennan is “Stumpy,” a young Ricky Nelson is “Colorado,” and the very beautiful Angie Dickonson plays the girl.

Sheriff Chance captures and jails a murderer but despite the man’s obvious guilt, his brother –  a man named Burdette –  wants him free. Burdette comes into town with an army of paid bounty hunters. They are instructed to spring his brother and to kill anyone who gets in the way.

The Sheriff, Dude, Stumpy, and Colorado are backed into a corner, surrounded by the enemy, and waiting for outside reinforcement when Burdette orders the Mexican band to start playing The Dequello.

COLORADO:         How’d you come out with Burdette?

SHERIFF:             He wanted to talk to his brother.

COLORADO:         What he’d have to say?

SHERIFF:             Nothing.

COLO:                  You mean he didn’t say anything?

SHERIFF :            Why are you so interested?

COLO:                  Because he’s talking now…  hear that music?  he told the man to play.

SHERIFF :            What is it?

COLO:                  Well, they call it The Deguello. The cut throat song. The Mexicans played it for those Texas boys when they had ’em bottled up in The Alamo.  they played it day and night until it was all over…now do you know what he means by it?

SHERIFF :            no quarter…no mercy for the losers

COLO:                  you’ll be hearing a lot of it.

SHERIFF:             Well, I guess we made him talk after all.

The Deguello is a hauntingly beautiful melody.The Spaniards brought it to Mexico and it has a strong Moorish flavor. The Deguello also translates as “beheaded” and I find it interesting  to note this Arab influence in this old Hollywood movie.

Script, cast,  sound track,  editing, photography —  it all works in this 1959 classic. Rent it this weekend for a satisfying romp in the Wild West.



Here’s a more light-hearted melody from the movie:   “… three good campanions: my rifle,  pony, and me…”.




By Patrick Van Roy On May 27th, 2011 at 2:24 pm


By Patrick Van Roy On May 27th, 2011 at 6:43 am


Life Is Hard – When The Missing Become The Dead

By 33230715130361 On May 26th, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Do you ever latch personally on to something in the news?  A human part of a story or tragedy where a piece just knocks you out?  I know most people are caring and we all hate to hear bad news.  But the sad stories tend to make you a little numb from time to time.  Earthquakes, famine, war, airplane crashes and disease.  Often times, I shake my head, say a prayer and move on.   Then like an unexpected wave hitting the shore a story comes crashing down on you that washes you with someone else’s grief.  Not all of their grief of course, but a shadow of their saddness.   There are still over 200 people still missing in the wreckage of the Missouri tornados, and hope is fading.  

I was hoping, without a great deal of reality, that a 16 month old toddler named Skyular who had been reported missing would be found alive.  He was not. 

I know from the reports that his poor mother, very young herself, had held on to him until the winds took him away.  I am fairly certain I wouldn’t recover from that.  I’m not that strong.  I hope she does.

They searched for him in the rubble and destruction.  His family searched.  His neighbors searched.  Strangers searched.  They couldn’t find him, though they found his little shoes and little clothes.  Now his little body has been identified at the morgue.  I have a son near that age so maybe that is why this hit me so hard.  The death of a stranger’s child, far away.  I’ll pick up my son and hug him tonight, even if he’s asleep which he usually is by the time I get home.   And I’ll hold him a little longer than usual.

Catching A Ratko

By 33230715130361 On May 26th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

The bad times for bad guys continues.  Serbian General Ratko Mladic (ever notice how some Serb criminals have almost cartoon-evil names?) has been captured and will be tried at The Hague for war crimes.  In particular the massacre of thousands of Muslims, considered Europe’s worst case of genocide since the Second World War. 

I suspect at the Rotten Villians Convention they’ll be missing a few regulars this year, what with Osama Bin Laden gone, Ghadaffi hiding, and Assad busy shooting and arresting his people.   Kim Jong Ill will be a lonely dear. 

It should be an interesting and heartbreaking trial.  Sadly, Serbia’s “finding” him seems more in line with their application to join the EU – time to take out the trash if you will.  I’m underwhelmed by the Serbian efforts, but at least it is a start. 

I have to go research, but I suspect execution is not on the table if he is convicted.  Too bad if that is the case.

Big Mac’s latest graduates begin work.

By Mike Cunningham On May 26th, 2011 at 7:57 am