The joining of two diamonds…

What a world we live in. I’m sitting here in Sydney Australia, watching Clay and Eunjeong getting married in Seoul, South Korea…

They are quite literally getting married as I write this, with a live video stream being sent to viewers from all over the world using

To be sitting here in Sydney Australia, watching the wedding of someone I’ve never met, but yet feel I know, joined by a group of people who I also feel I know but have never met, is quite amazing.

And yet, as amazing as I think it is, there is another part of me that says this is quite normal. After all, the technology that has enabled this event to be shared, and the technology that has enabled there to even be an audience with which to share it, have become an integral part of the world in which we live.

This event is a wonderful day for Clay and Eunjeong, and it was an honour to be able to share it. Far from feeling impersonal, being able to share in their special day thanks to these networked technologies is an amazing testament to the power of a networked world and the relationships one is able to build within it.

Congratulations to both of you!

PS: I created a Voicethread for anyone wishing to convey their well wishes to Clay and Eunjeong… if you attended (or even if you didn’t but would like to join in) please leave your thoughts and congratulations below…

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PPS: If you have any photos from the wedding, please join the Flickr group called burell_wedding and add your photos to the group pool. I think this is the most global wedding I’ve been to… (and the most fun, and the one where it’s been a learning experience at the same time!)

The Marist Way

Fellow blogger Judy O’Connell (from the HeyJude blog) recently started working at a large Marist school in Sydney, and she was kind enough to share some insights about her new school on her blog recently. St Josephs Hunters Hill is not just “a Marist school”, but is really THE Marist school. It is the flagship school for the brothers here in Sydney and has quite the reputation for providing a quality educational experience. For anyone who may not know, Marist schools were founded by Marcellin Champagnat in the early 1800s, a Frenchman who saw a specific need for boys’ education and proceeded to set up schools to meet that need.

I read Judy’s post with interest as I attended a Marist school as a kid. I also spent 8 years teaching in a Marist school. So as an ex-Marist boy I can personally vouch for both the strength and the gentleness of the Marist way of doing things. Because the Marists have a particular devotion to Jesus’s mother, Mary, there is a perceptible gentleness to the way they view education, with a certain respect for, and influence from, the feminine point of view.  It’s not a “girly” thing at all, but it seems to manifest in a respectful gentility that is usually considered softer than some other religious orders.  I do think “the Marist way” of education has a very special quality to it…

I once asked Brother Tony Butler, a Marist brother and good friend, what exactly was “the Marist way”, and how he felt it differed from the educational approach taken by other orders of brothers, such as the Christian Brothers or the De La salle Brothers… Tony explained it like this…

“Most teaching orders tend to think of the relationship between a teacher and the student as one of Master and Apprentice, in that the teacher is the “master”, full of special knowledge that is passed along to the “apprentice” learner, a sort of empty vessel waiting to be filled.

The Marist approach is subtly different, and instead treats that relationship as not one of Master/Apprentice, but of Big Brother/Little Brother.”

Big Brother/Little Brother. I like that way of thinking about the student/teacher relationship. Thinking about the relationship between the teacher and student in those terms implies that there is far more than just knowledge transfer taking place in the classroom… there is also trust, respect, wisdom, care and love.

Not a bad recipe for a learning environment.

Welcome to 2008

The Kiwis got there a few hours before us, but Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations have come and gone for another year. Linda and I caught the train into the city last night, along with more than a million other Sydneysiders, and watched $600,000 worth of gunpowder get launched above the harbour. As always, it was quite the spectacle. We got in there a couple of hours before midnight and wandered through Martin Place, then down George Street towards the Quay. The crowd was getting pretty raucous the closer we got to the harbourfront so we turned up Hunter Street and tried getting a spot at Mrs Macquaries Point but it was completely full. We kept walking all the way past Wooloomooloo, Garden Island and eventually found a decent vantage point in Potts Point, just below St Vincents School.

I took a little bit of video, as I promised I would on Twitter… here you go Jen Wagner! At the time of posting this, the Pacific, Australia, Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe have all already ushered in the new year. London is about 30 minutes away while Canada the Americas are still another few hours away yet. It’s a big world.

Anyway, Happy New Year and all the best for 2008, no matter where you may be in the world!

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Cracked Pepper?

One of the runaway success stories of Australian television is a subversive comedy show called The Chaser’s War on Everything. This very funny show takes constant potshots at every conceivable social and political norm, often drawing attention to the many stupid and inconsistent things we do. During 2007 the show aired every Wednesday night on ABC TV, and was also podcast via

My son Alex is a huge fan of the Chaser, and one of his favourite sketches was one in which the show’s host, Chris Taylor, rants about how annoying those waiters are that interrupt your meal to ask you if you’d like any cracked pepper. The sketch goes on to look at a variety of interesting situations in which a pepper-toting waiter might interrupt to offer his wares… if you’ve not seen it, here is the clip…

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So the other day I took Linda and the kids for lunch in Coogee. As we strolled down the sidewalk past all the funky little restaurants and bars, both Alex and Kate noticed that the Chaser’s Chris Taylor just happened to be sitting at a window-side table with some friends having a drink. “Dad, that’s the guy from The Chaser!” said Kate excitedly.

We kept walking and ended up sitting at a nice little restaurant a few doors down. Once seated however, my 15 year old son Alex started musing on the idea of how funny it would be for a waiter to offer Chris Taylor cracked pepper. Never one to pass an opportunity to make people laugh, Alex decided to borrow a pepper mill from our restaurant and, you guessed it, go next door to offer Taylor some cracked pepper of his own. I followed him up the street as he wandered into the restaurant with the pepper mill behind his back, walked up to Taylor and interrupted him with “cracked pepper sir?” I was standing on the sidewalk with Kate, intending to capture all this with my mobile phone’s video camera but was laughing so hard all I got to do was watch it unfold. Taylor was a good sport, and just smiled at Alex and said “No thanks”, to which Alex responded with “Are you sure sir?” Perhaps you just had to be there, but it was very funny.

The thing that amazed me the most was to see just how brazen Alex can be when he needs to be. He is normally a pretty quiet and introverted kid, but he had absolutely no trouble wandering up to this well known TV personality and turning the tables on him. I know it’s not exactly a paparazzi moment, but it was pretty funny.

Of course, trying to decide what to include in Alex’s Christmas stocking this year was easy… yes, he got his very own pepper mill. Cracked pepper, Santa?

An Absence of Common Sense

Is this an example of a world gone mad, or what?

A 10-year-old Florida girl faces felony weapons charges after bringing a small steak knife to school to cut up her lunch, according to a report on School officials say the Ocala 5th grader had brought a piece of steak for her lunch, and had brought a steak knife.

According to the report, a couple of teachers took the utensil and called authorities, who arrested the girl and took her to the county’s juvenile assessment center.

“She did not use it inappropriately. She did not threaten anyone with it. She didn’t pull it out and brandish it. Nothing of that nature,” explained Marion County School Spokesman Kevin Christian, who added that it made no difference what the knife was being used for, they had no choice but to call police.”

Anytime there’s a weapon on campus, yes, we have to report it and we aggressively report it because we don’t want to take any chances, regardless,” Christian said.The girl now faces a felony charge for possessing a weapon on school property and has been suspended from school for 10 days. The parents of the girl could not be reached for comment, reported. – Girl, 10, Arrested for Using Knife to Cut Food at School

Maybe giving a sharp knife to a 10 year old child was not the smartest thing mum ever did… in hindsight perhaps it would have been better to cut the meat up at home and bring it to school ready to eat, but the idea of charging this child with a felony for this mistake is just stupid. How ridiculous that she should carry a criminal charge on her record for the rest of her life!

Hopefully, common sense will prevail in the end and things will get sorted out, but in the meantime we have put this kid through negative publicity, a suspension from school, fear of a criminal charge, and the general trauma that goes with this whole nonsense. As it pointed out in the story, although the knife was not used in any sort of inappropriate way, the school “had no choice” but to just follow the rules – no matter how mindlessly stupid those rules may be. That’s rubbish. You always have the choice as to whether you follow the rules or not, especially when they are stupid rules. Whatever happened to using common sense and discretionary judgment?

And what’s this about the parents not being available for comment? If that were my own daughter, trust me, I would have been available for comment, and you can guarantee I would have had some comments to make…

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My good friends Brian and Wendy picked me up from the IWB conference and took me to stay with them in Brisbane. They used to live in Sydney and we got to spend lots of time together, but I haven’t seen them much since they moved… so it was great to see them again.

They took me to see Riverfire, a huge fireworks spectacular on the Brisbane River. It really was pretty spectacular. I took a bunch of photos and made a little slideshow, then put it on YouTube, then linked it here. Hope you like it.

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I, Rearrangement Servant

Have you ever needed to create an anagram for a word or phrase? An anagram is where you take all the letters in the word or phrase and rearrrange them to form a new word or phrase. 

For example, the word “betchaboy” can be rearranged into Hey Bobcat, Tabby Echo, Batch Obey, Ace Thy Bob or Echo by Tab.  I never said they had to make sense, but they might make good names the next time you need an alias for some website login where you don’t want to use your real name.

Short words are pretty easy to make anagrams from, but the longer they get, the harder it is to come up with something coherent.  Unless you enlist the help of a bit ot technology to help you of course… try heading over to the Internet Anagram Server, type in your name, word or phrase and see what you get.

If you come up with anything really good, share it in the comments.