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As pretty as this venerable virtual home undoubtedly is, the plumbing is practically Victorian and the writers are revolting (boom boom). As a result we have emigrated to the clean-lined metropolitan penthouse of WordPress. You can find more-or-less regular posts from the same revolting bloggers at Change your bookmarks, tell your friends, alert the media etc. etc.

Man walks into a column, no.18: Royalty

Ok look, I'm going to blog about the royal wedding. It was, in case you hadn't noticed, a bank holiday at the weekend and I was too busy enjoying beer, flame-grilled food and warmth (when out of the wind, anyway) to get my blog on. And to top it all, my iPhone 4 arrived yesterday. So you get this.

I'm a republican, I think. No matter how much I agree with the typically persuasive Rick that active republicanism is 'the day before yesterday's battle' because our monarchy has lost its power and there are bigger abuses of power to tackle (full post here), all it takes is a glimpse of the smug, entitled face of one of the minor royals to bring out my 'up against the wall' side. Sometimes, rational argument loses out to base human feeling.

Speaking of which: the royal wedding. To my genuine surprise, I watched it, and to my even greater surprise, I really enjoyed it. This despite catching far more than glimpses of many too many minor royals. (Minor royals irk so much because however worthless and offensive the Prince Philips of the world are, surely more revolting are the nobles who hang on, parasite-like, to the Prince Philips of the world.)

The wedding moved me on many levels. First and foremost, I like weddings or, at least, weddings where the bride and groom are young and (moderately, in William's case) attractive and (moderately, in Kate's case) in love. The drama created by the pre-ceremony build-up, the solemnity of the ceremony itself, and the relief and joy when everything's gone off without a hitch.

Second, I love dramatic religious buildings, and Westminster Abbey is one of the most impressive. Friends I spoke to complained about the seriousness of the music, but anything less than serious, traditional music would've been an insult to that hallowed historic space (what would they've preferred: Somewhere Over The Rainbow? All Things Bright And Beautiful?).

Third, and by far most important: the crowds. A million people, apparently, from across the globe. Apart from the very occasional protest, what else has the capacity to stir the passions of so many? And how wonderful, how stirring, how fun, to hear the chant of 'kiss, kiss' when the newly-weds were on the balcony (and how lovely it was that they did).

Those who complain about the cost of the security bill seem to miss the fact that it's our own fault for turning up. If the better side of royalty can provoke sufficient happiness in enough people then, good democrat that I am, I'll be content to see my own baser instincts outweighed.

I was turned on to the blazing talent of Canadian singer songwriter Ron Sexsmith earlier this week when finally getting round to watching the Love Shines documentary screened on BBC4 a little while ago (there's a trailer for it on YouTube here).

The central theme of the doc is that Ron is popular music's chronic underachiever; initially you find yourself wondering just how fair a statement this is of someone who counts Elvis Costello, Steve Earle and King of the Producers Daniel Lanois amongst his fans. But then you start to listen to the music properly and you realise that - as Costello himself puts it - Sexsmith is the most wonderfully tuneful melodist since McCartney. Seriously: this man should have a house built of gold discs. It's worth watching the documentary simply to see the transition between the hesitant way in which Ron first demos his song ideas to his producer to the masterful finished product.

Having raised your expectations I'll leave you to discover this six string poet yourself, as I'm only just beginning to do. This is a beautiful live performance of Late Bloomer from his most recent album Long Player Late Bloomer. My other early favourite is from his very first LP, a track called Lebanon, Tennessee - a classic example of a song that evokes longing for a simpler place, simpler pleasures (there's a decent live version here, albeit with the very start cut off).

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about why I'm a Liberal Personal Atheist and why it's bizarre to pretend that someone can't both be scientific and personally religious.

It was with this in mind that I enjoyed the following passage in the Guardian's Notes & Theories science blog, written about the search for the Higgs Boson (the full article is here):

I groan at the name 'God particle' (so why use it?), but it is hard to ignore the loose parallels that occasionally exist with religious endeavour. Physicists, like believers, build impressive structures to help them find meaning in the world. Among Higgs hunters, there are the faithful who assume the particle is real, though most are surely agnostic. There are those who disbelieve too. When one researcher suggested - he claims unintentionally - that the Higgs boson might not exist, he drew angry fire from a good number of fellow workers.

There was of a meeting at the NUT's annual conference at which teachers were warned about the dangers of pupils and potential employers getting hold of data posted by teachers on social networking sites. It caused me to think about the general factors that determine whether blurring the personal and the professional - through the means of the online - is or is not appropriate in a particular situation.

Like many, I've changed my attitude towards keeping my personal and online (public) worlds entirely separate. At first, the barrier between them was a solid concrete wall. Now it's a flimsier wire fence. The cause of the change is simply, experience, which both breeds confidence and demonstrates that, frankly, very few people read what you blog/tweet about anyway.

But there's also, I've realised, something about remembering that normal human relationships can exist in the professional world too. In most lines of work - certainly in mine - you wouldn't think twice about sharing modestly personal details, of holidays or family or the weekend, with a client. It's about knowing where to draw the line: no-one wants to hear about your verruca, but it's also stupid to act as if you flick an 'off' switch at six o'clock. And this principle extends to social networking: it's a case, if you will, of bearing in mind what's a verruca and what isn't.

The crucial difference between me and a teacher is that the people I work with are adults who I can trust to behave maturely. If they don't, which is thankfully a rare occurrence, there are established means of recourse to stop things escalating before serious damage is done. Part of this trust means expecting colleagues and clients to maintain a separation in their minds between what they know about me personally and what they expect of me in the workplace or, as Paul Carr once (slightly less delicately) put it:

People know what to expect and they either hire me or they don’t based on that. If the writing stays decent and I hit deadlines, all is well; if not, I’m fucked. Apart from that, my time is my own.

For teachers, on the other hand, an ill-judged tweet which falls into the hands of a child has the potential to wreck professional status and capacity to do the job almost straightaway. We can't realistically expect kids to exercise the same level of maturity and judgement. But this surely doesn't mean that teachers shouldn't be publicly online at all, just that the 'verruca threshold' (sorry) is considerably lower. The teacher who posted 'OMG must stop pissing about and get my maths boosters planned as I go to teach kids it in about one and a half hours!!!' is demonstrably an idiot: we can safely assume the web was merely the messenger of this idiocy rather than its cause.

So much for pupils: what about the second warning at the NUT conference, that online information is being misused by employers during recruitment processes? This, for me, is a red herring. When seeking to recruit, an employer has two important responsibilities: to apply set criteria consistently between candidates, and to be open about the evidence used to come to a judgement. Recruiters should certainly not be assembling online profiles of candidates on a whim, but if this is done properly and openly, with a right to reply, then why shouldn't this valuable additional source of information be used?

Where it all gets more complicated is when pictures are involved (if this feels like I'm waging a one-man-war against Facebook then, well, I guess I am). All of the above assumes that the individual in question is producing and sharing the content, and therefore responsible for deciding what is and isn't 'too personal' to share with a colleague, student or potential employer. But unless you're willing to set injunctions against your friends on a night out, anyone can take photos of you and post them online. Profoundly terrifying.


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