Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education

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Boss Bike Rides: how to create a bit of Urban Magic.

The basic premises of Boss Bike Rides are that you spend time on a bike with someone else and that you then share your experiences of boss-ness, boss-dom and boss-icity or a combination of all of the above.

But what if you don’t have some-one to ride with? And what if you’re not sure about how to start up a conversation with someone you may have known a long time?

This might sound an odd supposition but given many of us have just spent 16+ months in various degrees of isolation and separateness, it’s not surprising that perhaps our previous confidence in social settings may have taken a bit of a shaking since the onset of social distancing.  So perhaps we could do with a bit of help in getting those conversations going again.

One way of doing that is suggested by the venture Street Wisdom who describe themselves as a “social enterprise that offers mind-opening WalkShops on streets all over the world. Run by volunteers, our immersive public experiences turn the city into your creative playground – a place to unlock fresh thinking and set new direction.”

Now, whilst their focus is on walking, the principles apply to cycling in general and to Boss Bike Riding in particular.

“All you need is to turn up with a question you’d like some fresh answers to. It could be a business-related question, a personal one. Or both. Come by yourself, tell your friends to sign up or even enrol your whole team – this is a great way for business colleagues to hit the refresh button.”

You can keep your question secret if you want, but it’s good to have something in mind. Nothing as big as ‘when am I going to win the Lottery?’ or as small as ‘Left or Right Lion?’ – but something that matters to you, right here, right now.

What happens next on a Street Wisdom walk is that you ‘tune into’ the street over four shorts walks: each walk you can make alone or with friends, and each walk had an instruction to guide you:

“Look for what you’re drawn to.”

“Slow right down.”

“Notice the patterns.”

“See the beauty in everything.”

When I undertook a Street Wisdom walk in Nottingham with a group of five complete strangers, the walks and the focus given by the instructions generated for all of us on the walks a quite astounding set of responses.

I found myself being drawn to the fountains on the other side of the square, feeling quite wistful about the lack of water features in the city and the distance we were from the coastline.

The instruction to Slow Right Down had me stopped dead still in my tracks for over fifteen minutes which enabled me to see how fast everyone rushes around the city: always with intent and a job to do or a place to go or a person to visit. Staying much longer under this instruction would have seen me draining away through the concrete, I was relaxing that rapidly.

It was on the third walk – Notice the Patterns – that I really started to feel the effects of the process. Normally I brush off patterns or pay no attention to them at all: but given ten minutes just to look at them made me hugely aware of just how patterned and ordered our city scape is: it was intoxicating to see patterns in every nook and cranny and in every small piece of iron railing, shop window and bus stop. Had this been after a Friday evening at the Cross Keys, one might have explained this with 15 pints of IPA: but no, this was Friday lunchtime and I was technically still at work.

The fourth walk – See the Beauty in everything – was the peak of the afternoon. It meant that it was impossible to go anywhere with stopping to marvel at everything. I found myself marvelling at all of modern technology when I overheard a couple of tourists extol loudly the wonder that was Skype, which had allowed them to talk to a long lost aunt in Australia that very morning.  Fast forward five years to the middle of the pandemic, and our familiarity with Teams and Zoom makes that appreciation of Skype has a warm cosy nostalgic glow woven through every strand of that moment.

After the four short walks, you’re encouraged to go off on a journey by yourself: your own street quest.   You do this with your own question at the back of your mind and later on meet up with the rest of the group to share your experiences and improved wisdom. I can’t tell you whether the question I had posed was answered other than to say that your first question may not be the right question; but I can tell you that all six of us were swept away by the experience and promised to go divining for more Nottingham in the weeks to come.

“It’s urban magic on your doorstep” say Street Wisdom and for once in your life, the reality lives up to the promise.

You can  interpret these Street Wisdom walks into 4 phases of your Boss Bike Ride of course and we look forward to seeing how your Boss Bike Ride can generate it’s own brand of urban magic.

Why Boss Bike Rides?  Here’s an answer.

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Thinking About Dance Action Zones

The metaphor of the Zone is a recurring element of educational discourses in which space and time is structured in such a way as to generate learning spaces whose properties are thought to magnify, extend, or transform a particular aspect of learning. 

Drawing on Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), – the process by which children learn with the support of significant others – the transformational capacities of Zones have been well documented in the field of music, creative writing and educational aspiration and attainment in general.

Zones can generate additional, magnifying effects and produce outputs which are more than the sum of their individual parts.  Specially they can:

  • contribute to academic standards
  • engage learners in ‘real world’ educational challenges
  • engage low achievers and challenge high achievers
  • develop artistic, social and interpersonal skills
  • increase the fun of learning

Action Zones can offer regionally responsive programmes to children and young people with least opportunity to participate in quality dance-making activities.

Traditionally, funding for educationally focused action zones (including Youth Music Action Zones)  has been focused on those with least access to opportunities, targeting those affected by social, economic, geographical or cultural deprivation and has led to very high levels of involvement and impact.

YMAZ’s also worked within Youth Music’s own strategic priorities of Early Years, Young People At Risk, Transition, Singing and Workforce Development: priorities (perhaps with the exception of singing) which could be sympathetic to many dance educators.

Possible Model of Youth Dance Action Zones (borrowing heavily from YMAZ’s!)

Youth Dance Action Zones (YDAZs)  would be a regional network of organisations dedicated to providing quality dance-making experiences for 0-25 year olds who might not otherwise get the chance.

YDAZs would be unique in bringing together a range of organisations across the voluntary, public and private sectors for the benefit of local children and young people.

Each YDAZ would designed to respond to the particular needs of their host community. Their agenda would be broad – from providing pathways for young people to develop dance skills to supporting the training of dancers and educators working within the sector.

Each YDAZ would deliver a wide range of high quality activities covering a broad range of dance styles and genres.  The activities, which would take place mainly outside school hours, include workshops, rehearsals, performances, one-to-one teaching and mentoring. 

As engines of strategic change and pioneers of innovative dance making in their regions, YDAZs would build local and regional partnerships to ensure a sustainable future for their activities. At the same time, their most significant partnership is with the young people themselves, ensuring that the YDAZs remain in-touch and relevant to their most important stakeholders.


•          To establish a legacy of dance-making opportunities in areas of high social and economic need and geographical isolation

•          To improve the overall standards of dance-making across all dance styles and genres

•          To champion the value of dance making in advancing the educational and social development of children and young people

•          To establish dance-making opportunities as a force for regeneration in communities, fostering social inclusion and community cohesion

Target audiences

YDAZs  would work with the hardest to reach children and young people, including young offenders, those at risk of offending, young people out of mainstream education and looked after children. 

YDAZs  would also offer CPD opportunities to their dance leaders, ensuring the highest quality practice.

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Day 12 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it’s a Mighty Team effort.

Whilst it might look like I’m trying to throw balls into a basketball hoop in a solitary fashion, in actual fact I’m part of a bigger Mighty Creatives team effort whose members are all contributing to the task in hand: namely to raise funds in support of our Not Just a Box programme.

The Not Just a Box programme supplies Lets Create packs, boxes filled with creative resources tailored by age to support children to get creative in their homes. Each pack provides vital materials such as paper, pens, paints, craft kits and digital tools, resources which they would otherwise have limited access to outside of education.

Its Not ‘just’ a Box though.  Boxes delivered to the doorsteps of children in need provide that critical connection with The Mighty Creatives, where children and young people can access our support and the opportunities we can provide direct to their homes.

A box provides the tools and resources and access to support from our skilled staff team and specialist Creative Practitioners, Mentors and Coaches via online and offline activities.

As a result, a Mighty Creative child in need accesses critical and timely support from The Mighty Creatives, developing their resilience and nurturing activity to sustain their wellbeing. In turn these children are supported to develop the confidence to come together with others to share their story and to take action in their lives and in the lives of others living in their shoes.

Emily Bowman is leading the The Mighty Relay Rabble Team:  30+ friends whose mission is  to run a virtual relay across three continents! Each member of the team is running / walking 2.6 miles, then passing their baton onto the next member of the team. From the South East of the UK to the US, passing through Finland and Australia along the way!

Emily York is trusting her friends and family to submit daily challenges for her to undertake, some creative, some physical but most are for her to make a fool out of herself!

Hannaa Hamdache is creating 26 paintings over the course of 26 days. You can follow her daily progress over on Instagram: @thehamthatdoodles.

Hope C is learning 26 famous dance routines from music, movies and tv. Without giving too much away, she’s got a track list of tunes from the 80s, 90s, 00s, some K-pop bangers (of course) and scenes from some movies too. She is not a dancer, so this is a real challenge for her!

Charlotte Moseley is running a mile a day for 26 days and…

Lorrie Stock will be baking as many cakes as she can, taking orders from family and friends for any cakes and bakes they want, in return for donations and all the support she can get!

Yours truly, as you may know, is aiming to shoot 26 basketballs in under 26 minutes over 26 days.  With variable but encouraging results!  Here’s today’s stats produced for you in a slightly different format…

Baskets scored over Days 1 – 12

And here’s some for the more curious amongst us:

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
Not long to go now!

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Day Nine of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it’s all in the wrist action.

“It’s all in the wrist action!” was the response by a young lad in the TV ad for the game, Battling Tops, back in the late 1960s, when asked by an eager TV reporter, ’Champ, how do you do it?”

As an innocent 12-year-old, this exhortation suggested nothing more than having to adjust your wrist in such a fashion that twiddling a lever with a suitable level of pull and twist which was attached to the spinning top, would ensure that it spun out on to the game’s board and decimate its opposition – the battling tops – within seconds of being launched.

As this 12-year-old grew up, the importance of wrist action in vastly different contexts became of increasing interest and not a little alarm. In the school gym for example, the flick of your wrist could mean a badminton racket spinning out of your hands and over the net with the shuttlecock laying forelornly in front of you; behind the school bike sheds, your wrist action was critical to ensuring the ash on the end of your cigarette fell to the dirt and not on to your maths homework and in the bathroom, the correct flick of the wrist was the difference between a first, clean shave or slicing your throat.

It was all in the wrist then and it’s all in the wrist now, when it comes to ensuring you follow through on the ball which you have just delicately lobbed towards the net, hoping with bated breath for the moment when it starts its arc towards the hoop… and the net…and oh.  The ground.  That flick of the wrist action clearly didn’t quite cut it on that occasion.

No matter.  The stats are getting better and the optimism never fades. The failing wrist is just another sign of the times.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
8Training Day

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Day Eight of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: all the single ladies, all the single ladies!

Stick your butt OUT like BEYONCE advises Tahir, my coach. We’ve met on a wet windy Tuesday morning on an impressive basketball court in St Matthews in Leicester and I’m getting some mid- 26 Day Challenge training advice.  It’s clear that standing upright, throwing the ball from over my head like a footballer’s throw in isn’t cutting the mustard when it comes to shooting from the basketball charity stripe.

I’ve never been instructed to behave like Beyonce before but the offer is too good to turn down.  Butt OUT, pounce in place and voguing it like a MF, and I’m away, all those Beyonce tunes bouncing around my head in sympathy with the ball as it bounces out of the net and all over the court.  All the single ladies are irreplaceable, putting a ring on it if I were a boy crazy in love.

The energising effect is indisputable and whilst the conversion rate from miss to near miss to basket hasn’t noticeably improved over the course of the training, I’m confident that a combination of butt OUT, elbows UP, follow THROUGH and flick your WRIST will see me through the remaining 18 days of the challenge.

I’m definitely on a tipping point of basket success rather than becoming a basket base and it won’t be a matter of ‘Will I ever shoot 26 baskets?’ to ‘How much can I reduce the time taken to shoot them?’ 

Wishful thinking may be but as the lady might have said, ‘if you like it then you gonna put it through a ring’.

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.

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Day Seven of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the ball is my friend.

Hard to believe but still true: the ball is becoming my friend. 

Not something to throw vehemently at the target, not something to disregard as if it were an intruder in your own private quest for the Holy Grail but an essential partner you have to coax, encourage and woo in your attempt to achieve something which, whilst on the one level is not especially an audacious attempt at the Guinness world record for basketball free throws (67 in one minute, since you ask, achieved by Anthony Miracola of the USA  in Temperance, Michigan on 5 April 2020) but still something you could look back in your dotage and confidently whisper,  ‘Yes, I did that.  Really I did” to your disbelieving great grandchildren.

Whether Miracola will have that pleasure remains to be seen. His life mission was to become “the greatest shooter” and had he turned up at my neighbour’s and shot 67 in one minute, we would have been on Twitter before you could shout Harlem Globetrotter. 

Mind you, the bigger question would have been could he have kept it up for the full 26 minutes? And how many near misses did he achieve in his 67 throws over that minute?  This might seem a curmudgeonly response to a Guiness World Record beater, but these statistics are critical in establishing the truth about what really makes a world record beater. 

My dad always used to say that it was all very well for a High Jumpers to jump 8’ ¼” but it was unfair that they landed on a mattress.  His argument was that if you wanted to jump high, you had to be able to land safely too, without assistance.  The fact that high jumpers would would be likely to break their backs in their attempts to be the best they could be, seemed to elude him.

Perhaps this rather tortuous logic worked its through the generations and has left me wondering how many near misses Miracola had in beating the world record: but you’ll see by the picture that he wasn’t short of a bit of technical help in his attempt on the World Record.

You’ll see that Miracola had an automatic ball feeder to help him. Presumably he didn’t have to go and chase the ball every time it spun around the hoop and leapt out towards a kichen window? Or extract it from the neighbours garden every time it bounced over his head?  These things matter in world record beating attempts!

Anyway, perhaps he’ll get in touch one day and we can share notes on how he shot 67 in one minute and how it took me 26 minutes to shoot 14 today.  I’m sure the ball (or the myriad of balls he used) were all his friends.  That’s what being a World Champion is all about: you’re everyone’s best friend, even if it is just for a minute.

But on a more cheering note, here are today’s ‘scores on the doors’.  I feel I’m on a tipping point and nearly ready to meet Anthony Miracola on any court of his choosing.  (Just give me a few more weeks, Anthony).

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.

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Day Six of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: this is The Why.

For all the fun to be had in trying to throw basketballs into hoops, there is a serious intent behind all this.

It’s about raising awareness of Child Poverty, about contributing to the fight against it, and to actively provide children and young people with the resources to develop their own creativity, expressiveness and to find the fun in culture.

Along with many other colleagues from The Mighty Creatives, we’re finding our own fun in culture – whether this be singing, dancing, experimenting, throwing basketballs or the many other possibilities that are available to us. We’re the lucky ones: but many yougn people aren’t and this is why this campaign is so vital.

By supporting our campaign, you will be supporting our ‘Not Just a Box’ programme, born out of the national ‘Lets’ Create’ programme last year in which over 25,000 packs of creative resources were distributed to children and young people across the country.

We did our bit then, and we’re continuing to do that now.

The Not Just a Box programme supplies Lets Create packs, boxes filled with creative resources tailored by age to support children to get creative in their homes. Each pack provides vital materials such as paper, pens, paints, craft kits and digital tools, resources which they would otherwise have limited access to outside of education.

With £15 of your support, this will help fund one Let’s Create Pack to support a child living in poverty.

With £20 of your support, this will help fund a Let’s Create Family Pack for 2 or more children living in poverty.

With £3000 will help us to fund a Let’s Create Cupboard ( at a local FoodBank across the region) for one holiday period, serving over 200 children and young people living in poverty.

So it all helps – there’s no such thing as a Small Donation!

You can find out more here.

And thank you, in advance, for any support you can offer.

(And in case you’re following the statistics… here’s the good news about day 6. Never mind the BPM, just check out the FeelGood Factor!

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor

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Day Five of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the flight of the bumble ball.

Q: What’s orange, striped and has all the aerodynamicity of a cottage loaf?

Q: What hovers in the air, tremulous, unsure of its destination or how it’s going to get there?

Q: what looks like its about to soar to the sky only to fade gracefully into the waiting arms of a fisherman’s net?

AAA: no, not a bumblebee but a basketball.

The two objects have much in common apart from the capacity of one to bounce heartily over your head when waiting for it to come to a stop and the capacity of the other to commit Hara-Kiri if it ever feels ever so threatened.  Having said that, bumble bees rarely sting; much like the basketball which also rarely drops itself easily into the awaiting net.

They say that the chance of being stung by a bumblebee can be reduced by avoiding provoking them or making them aggressive. They also say that taking ones temper out on an recalcitrant basketball never ends happily for either you or the ball.

They say that it is important to be calm when working with bumblebees. This is equally true for basket balls.  There is no point whatsoever in waving your arms at the bumblebees, or indeed waving your arms around whilst throwing the ball.  This will only end up in the ball breaking a kitchen window, bouncing over the fence to the neighbour’s garden or worse.

Whilst they also say that you should not touch or try to hold bees, the opposite is true of basket balls.  You have to pick up one, you have to hold it in the right configuration, and you have to let go at the right time, with the right pace, with the right follow through and the right air of optimism.  Otherwise, that too will end in tears.

The only difference between the bumblebee and the basketball is that bumble bees live in hives and the basketball tends to migrate around the house, depending on where you last left it and forgot about it. 

Meanwhile, here are some statistics, gathered together into the safety of a spreadsheet.  You’ll note a new metric: the FeelGood Factor.  This represents the ratio of Near Misses to Total Attempts, and given the relationship between this emergent athlete and his wilful bumbleball, is a hugely motivational statistic that means for the moment at least, the bumbleball is unlikely to find itself speared onto a garden railing any time soon.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.

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Day Four of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: dressing to impress

There comes a time in the emergent athlete’s life when they realise they have to finally shed the drab cocoon grey of the unwashed t-shirt, the shorts which had been shoved unceremoniously into the bottom of a bin bag many years ago during a unexpected change of student digs and the trainers which were the height of fashion back in the day when clogs were de rigeur in the trendiest school chum circles: and stretch out into the day light, shining in a luminescent orange Trumpian glow, fresh from a visit to their local nuclear power plant.  In this transformatory moment, you can see high energy neutron beams shooting out from every limb and cranny, invigorating their sense of purpose and instilling a new determination to beat yesterday’s achievement of 0.07692308 BPM.

The metamorphosis of the emergent athlete from wannabe to andwhynote is a startling sight.  It is even more of a startling experience for the athlete themselves who is able to look at themselves in a new, surprising light and find themselves asking themselves “Could I?  Should I? What if…?”

For a few seconds a new career in basketball beckons.  And then a few seconds later, once it’s taken over 50 shots to see the first ball of the day reluctantly fall through the hoop and down past the net with a grudging swoosh, reality seeps back in and the day job becomes an oasis of calm and serenity.

It’s all very well to dress to impress, impress for success or success in a dress but in the end, no amount of sleek shorts, body hugging t-shirts or ergonomic trainers are going to be able to counteract the emergent athlete’s inability to throw a ball in a curved enough line so that it flies in a graceful arc up and over to a welcoming net and thrilling swoosh noise.

Having said that, the statistics are a bit more bearable.

Attempts =190            (up by 1 from yesterday)

Near Misses = 107      ( up 20 from yesterday)

Scores = 7                    (up by 5 from yesterday)

BPM = 0.26923077     (up by 0.19230769 from yesterday)

Effort = 0.03684211    (up by 0.0262601 from yesterday)

The Only Way is Up! as Yazz used to sing for the Maltese Labour Party back in 1988. Whether or not she was singing in a bright orange leotard is another matter but it’s a song to get your red blood cells racing, ready for tomorrow’s challenge.

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.

(Thanks to Tahir for the opportunity to dress, impress and the road to success!)

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Day Two of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: Progress is many a splendoured thing.

Yesterday’s modest tally of eight baskets after 26 minutes was nothing if not a baseline. 

We’re used to baselines in education: in order to know how much we’ve progressed we need to know where we’ve started from and a data baseline (whether this be of fronted adverbials,   adjective declensions or educational attainment in general) is pretty much as good a starting point as any.

So, OK, eight baskets after 26 minutes may not count for much, but it does at least give you a baseline figure of 0.30769231 baskets per minute. (Doncha just love figures to eight decimal places?  They remind me of population statistics that state things like ‘2.4 people live In a normal household’.  Ever seen 0.4 of a person?  No, me neither unless you count those people lying comatose in the streets after a Covid-lockdown-release pub crawl.)

But I digress. 0.30769231 baskets per minute  (or BPM – note the immediate adoption of an acronym when it comes to measuring success) may or may or may not be a measure of success, but it is certainly a baseline.  And something to build on, as football managers are wont to say after the 15-0 thrashing of their side by their league’s minnows.  ‘We may have just been humiliated, Brian, by a team which is holding up the whole of the English football league, but our attacking spirit gave me hope and is something to build on.”

 So today, I was determined to build on that baseline of Day One and achieve success.  However, what often happens when you start to measure success, you find yourself with an overwhelming desire to measure all sorts of other things which you hope will indicate whether or not you are actually achieving anything, in what context you’re achieving it, whether you’re getting any better, or whether the whole endeavour is a complete waste of yours and everybody else’s time.

Today was a case in point.  Not content enough just to measure BPM  (Baskets per minute, do please keep up at the back), it struck me that it would be really useful not just to measure balls that followed a trajectory of hand air basket swoosh bounce and a triumphant yeh, but to measure how much effort this took. 

I arbitrarily decided that Yvonne, my independent invigilator, also now needed to start counting how many attempts I had made at causing that trajectory.  My feeling was that effort could be determined by calculating the ratio of the number of balls thrown to the number of successful baskets.  Logically, if every effort succeeded in achieving a basket, then my effort would be 100%. Note how one’s feelings could soon be legitimised by expressing an event in logical terms.  This gives one a curious sense of intellectual satisfaction, even if no-one else has been involved in the calculus.

So, count the number of attempts as well as the number of successes she did.  After 24 attempts I had scored precisely nul point meaning my effort was precisely zero.  However, on the 25th attempt I actually shot one basket meaning that my effort had increased dramatically to 0.04 exactly.  An infinite improvement on the situation I had found myself in just seconds before.  This was a very satisfying moment and gave me (if not Yvonne) confidence that we were moving in the right direction.  Something else to build on if you like.

Before I knew it  (well, actually after 26 minutes in fact) we stopped the challenge and counted up the ‘scores on the doors’ as Brucie like to chuckle in The Generation Game. 

15 hoops over 194 attempts over 26 minutes.

0.57692308 BPM.  Up from 0.30769231 BPM from the day before. An increase of a massive 87.500000%.

An effort score of 0.07731959 BPA. Good? Bad? Indifferent?  It is at least another baseline and something I look forward to building on over the remaining 24 days of the challenge. 

And BPA?  Baskets per Attempts of course.  Where would we be without our acronyms? Struggling to determine whether we were making any progress at all, that’s for sure.

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.

Thanks to the Sunday Night Quiz Gang for the graphic!