Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education


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Day 26 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: spinning for England.

As with the numbers, as with so much in life, it depends on how you tell it.

Faced with the last day of the Challenge today, what better way to finish the project than with the perfectly symmetrical outcome of 26 baskets in 26 minutes?  Not too many, and not in too short a time.  This may seem easy but in actual fact it’s trickier than it sounds.

Given recent history, overscoring was a distinct possibility today. The real challenge was to get the tempo just right, so that the 26th shot would whoosh through the hoop with just seconds to spare, meaning that there would be no time available to over shoot the target.

This was a tall order but, I’m pleased to say, everything went according to plan.  There was just the right number of plain terrible shots which didn’t go anywhere near basketball nirvana (27); the ideal number of near misses (127) and the precise number of shots which underlined the symbolism of the project as a whole (26).  And guess what? Accompanied with a mere 30 seconds to spare. And Yvonne, my independent invigilator has the figures to prove it.

The timing presented its own challenges.  Performing in doors for the first time in 26 days (thank you especially to the Priory City of Lincoln Academy Sports Centre for dedicating their superb facilities to me for the entirety of the evening), I was faced with a new court, a bewildering set of floor markings and critically a new hoop which made it clear from the off that it wasn’t going to cooperate with any fundraising campaign any time soon.

So, it took a good few minutes to understand the dynamics of net, hoop, ball, stand and court such that I was able to time – nearly to perfection – the precise completion of the target of 26 baskets in the regulation 26 minutes. 

So after 26 days, 4,062 shots of which 2,357 were near misses, 709 on target and an overall success rate of 17.5%,  this part of the campaign has come to an end. Job done.

The campaign though to provide young people with Let’s Create packs – the fundamental reason behind all this counting, ball and story spinning still has some way to go.

You can help tell our story by sharing yours here.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this campaign and for helping improve young people’s creative lives. The numbers of beneficiaries, income raised and targets surpassed will tell us something about that, but there will be many more testimonials of your support which we will never hear about, but which are nevertheless as real as any numbers on a spreadsheet.

And for that, we will all be eternally grateful.


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Day 24 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: Ball seeks Hoop for satisfying up and down relationship.

The demise of Hoop on Day 23 left Ball feeling bereft.  Little did we know that an intimate relationship had flourished between the now deceased hoop and the size 7 Opti Basketball.  All those no-where closes, near-misses, and holes-in-ones had brought the thrown and the catcher closer together than either could have imagined 24 days ago, and so the premature ending of the relationship led to Ball moping in surprising and poignant ways.

It wouldn’t lay still on the floor anymore and kept popping up in surprising locations around the house; its bounce became rugby-ball like and even the Opti logo – normally assuming a cheery emoticon smile- assumed a downward frown.   All was not well in the world of Ball.

So, to try and shake Ball out of its misery, we thought what better than other to provide it with a new stimulus and a new view of the world so set off to look for a new hoop, new free throw line – and who knows, perhaps find a new net into the bargain.

Happily, the search didn’t take long and before we knew it, Ball was re-establishing a new relationship with a new Hoop and a bonus Net.  The presence of Net was particularly beneficial in distracting Ball from its sadness, not least because it was composed of metal rings which didn’t so much ‘whoosh’ as the ball went through it so much as clank their appreciation of the introduction to a new ball.

To cap it all, Hoop was installed in a public recreation park so once its endeavours were over, Ball was able to relax and recuperate with some fun filled moments on the children’s swings and zip wire.

If you’d particularly like to see the Zip Wire exploits, you can click here: and if you’d like to see me repeat the humiliation all you have to do is donate £20 to the campaign here, tell me who you’d like to dedicate the Zip Wire ride too and I shall repeat the exercise and publicly dedicate the ride to you.

Ball will be delighted to participate, I’m sure.


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Day 23 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: RIP Hoop.

It’s been coming for a few days now but on the 113th throw from the free shot line on day 23 of 26, the hoop finally gave up its stubborn resistance to the painful attentions of the ball and failed spectacularly and fell gracelessly to the ground.

Any significance in the number 113?  It is, after all, a prime number and has 13 at the end of it. Perhaps this signals the end of the world to some people?  The coming of a New Age of Aquarius to others?  Or just the incremental failing of a series of material relationships in which grip was lost, thread laid bare and a fond parting of the ways resulted in gravity having the final word on the connection between brick, rawl plus, screw, back board, hoop bracket hole and ground.

Perhaps it was shooting the first 26 in a record beating 9’ 15” which did it.  Perhaps it was just old age and metal fatigue.  Perhaps as they grow old, basketball hoops get weary of the pounding, the bouncing and the whooshing and just want to retire gracefully and spend their days staring at the sunsets, pent up in thought about what happens when the final moments arrive.  Will they be quick? Painless? Ridiculous?

There have been a few occasions in my own life when I realised, I was within inches of my own demise.   Missing a wayward fireworks rocket by a few inches one Guy Fawkes Night flying along our road (rather up in the air) was one of them.  Not being in Vauxhall when a helicopter fell on a passing cyclist and killed him was on another.  I’ve felt since then that death, for all its sting, can be surprisingly farcical.  A case of would’na, could’na, should’na perhaps.

So, the search is on for a hoop and net which could withstand my attentions for the next three days.  All suggestions gratefully received.


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Day 22 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: One hund-red and eigh-ty! As if.

“One hund-red and eigh-ty! “Not that I’m going to reach those heights in the remaining five days but I remember mid-shot of how we celebrate numbers so joyfully.   That particular shot consequently went completely wayward and was a sharp reminder of the need to find a point on the wall, fix on it, follow through and not go off on a reverie of how we celebrate numbers on popular TV shows.

We can’t help but recognise Len Goodman’s ‘It’s Ten from Me’ in possibly every single episode of Strictly Come dancing though. And the cry of ‘One hundred and forty seven!’  in snooker as the maximum score available is potted once again.

Hitting those maximum scores shows us there’s no where else to go; that we’ve hit the pinnacle of achievement and in our small way have beaten our nerves, our competitors and the best of all, gravity.  It gives us a brief moment of invincibility even if it doesn’t last for very long and the next round, game or episode sees us crashing back to earth as our nerves, competitors and gravity reassert their dominance.

Be that as it may, having a modest target of 26 (“Twenty-six!”) does at least allow you several moments of invincibility, especially as you get nearer to the previously unimagined golden heights of 78 (“Seventy Eight!”). 

Speaking of which, why don’t they make records which spin at 78 rpm any more?

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%
19167845432.34%2.07750.30%4942,96936612.3%
20157747044.59%2.69247.13%5203,12643613.9%
21163796640.49%2.53848.47%5463,28950215.3%
22178857441.57%2.84647.75%5723,46757616.6%

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 21 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the comfort of the spreadsheet.

There’s only five days to go now and the beauty of numerical modelling means that rather than having to go outside and risk catching Covid-19 (despite what the stats tell us) , I can lay underneath the warmth and comfort of the spreadsheets (it’s a shame Excel don’t make duvets) and predict what’s going to happen today. 

Five days ago, y = 1.8393x + 2.019.  This was, as you can appreciate, was a bit of a surprise.  A pleasant surprise I grant you, but still a surprise.  So, imagine my response the day after when y = 1.9618x + 1.325!  This was obviously not a flash in the pan.  It’s always an adventure at the free-throw line as they say in basketball circles.

And guess what happened next?  Yep, you’ve guessed it: y = 2.23x – 0.2426.  You could have blown me down with a feather.  Clearly a matter of now having a hot hand.  As they say.

Followed by amidst much Shakespearean sturm und drang y = 2.24727x – 1.8235.  Nail that trifecta!

And today I’m looking at y = 2.8649x – 4.4386.  Say no more. We’re really gonna light up the scoreboard today.

And in case we’ve forgotten: you can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.

Epilogue

Drat.

y = 3.0526x – 5.7526.

Need I say more?

Drat.


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Day 19 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!

Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,

That make ingrateful man!

On the other hand you storms, gales, hail stones

And much else that the English summer can throw at me,

You can do what you like but

Under the safety of the large chestnut tree

You are having no effect whatsoever on

My Mighty 2.6 Basketball Challenge.

My target: 26.

My Actualité: 54.

I be most grateful.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%
19167845432.34%2.07750.30%4942,96936612.3%
king Lear Day

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 18 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the unchartered waters of Citius Altius Fortius

“You’re in unchartered waters,” remarked Yvonne, my independent invigilator as my PB was passed in record time. My PB, for those that haven’t been following is 37 baskets in 26 minutes and today saw that milestone fade away in the mists of history.

I nearly remarked that the whole last 18 days has been unchartered waters for me but decided to concentrate on the job in hand.  Not unchartered in the way that an ice breaker ploughs through Antarctic ice floes in search for unknown uranium deposits I grant you, but there have been moments of physical and emotional challenge, that’s for sure.

Sporting prowess was never something I’ve been able to claim with much authority over the years. I was too slow, too short sighted, too asthmatic or just too bored with the whole damn thing when it came to being last in line at school to be chosen for a football team only to be stuck in goal on miserable November afternoons with nothing to do but carve your name in the mud with your outsize football boots, plotting your revenge.

Ironically, picking up a medal at school for playing in the Colts rugby team (for my enthusiasm I found out afterwards) was about as good as it got until much later on, much to my surprise again, I was named ‘Player of the Year’ for the eighth division squash team which played out of Liverpool Cricket Club. 

Again, the reason alluded me at the time.  Contrary to what you might expect, we called ourselves the ‘Oxford team’ as that was the pub where we tended to gravitate after Thursday night league matches to celebrate our occasional success but more frequently to tend to our emotional wounds of hurt pride, embarrassment or just sheer frustration at what was, woulda, coulda, shoulda been that night.

 But despite the squash lows, there were many team highs, and the camaraderie was something I’ve long since treasured. Perhaps it was that, in the knowledge that my PB was probably at the end of a long list of sporting achievements in the league table of the club’s best performing athletes which led to them to offer a vote of sympathy with the POTY trophy.

But whatever the reason, it was a great night to be alive that evening and one of my PB memories of how sport can bind us and forge a community, despite its fundamental tenets of competitiveness, winning, losing and tribal loyalties. In the arts, we like to think that the arts are fundamental to building community, new relationships and a sense of civic duty which of course they are: but we shouldn’t forget that sport can achieve that too, without needing to be faster, higher or stronger than anyone else.

A PB of 48 shots into a basketball hoop which is beginning to physically suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously tossed basket balls doesn’t quite capture those emotional heights of the POTY trophy but it does bring another kind of satisfaction, even if it is about revelling in the statistics of an Excel spreadsheet.

Speaking of which….

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rateTime for 26 (seconds)
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A26826-Apr
21940157.73%0.577N/A521942327-Apr
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%28-Apr
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%29-Apr
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%30-Apr
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%01-May
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%02-May
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%04-May
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%05-May
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%06-May
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%07-May
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%08-May
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%09-May
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%12-May1,290
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%13-May1,160
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%14-May1,255
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%15-May730

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 17 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: does counting count?

Some wag by the name of William Bruce Cameron is quoted for this rather pithy quote about numbers:  “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Whilst originally a sociologist and not a basketball player of any great note, Cameron’s point is referred to in a wide range of contexts; business improvement, pain analysis, haemoglobin levels and more recently, basketball throwing charity campaigns.

When it comes to the trial and tribulations of taking pot shots at basketball hoops on these early sunny May mornings, what seemingly has mattered is the number of basketballs falling through the hoops, the near misses, the total effort and in recent days, the time it’s taking to reach the first target of 26 successful shots.  These have all be diligently counted by my independent invigilator, but do they count? Do they matter in the broader schemes of life?  What impact are they having in the big wide world beyond the neighbour’s driveway?

The answer is at first glance hard to come to terms with: in the wider scheme of life, this counting isn’t counting very much at all; unless you accept that there are other unseen consequences to the effort and the telling of the effort which are not noticed by many, not counted by any, but could be counting quite a lot if we could just witness it. 

If this story and its numbers are giving you the reader, any kind of pleasure, if only for a few seconds, then perhaps that counts (although it’s not been counted as far as I know).  If the cash raised through the campaign can go on to generate some curiosity, achievement and pleasure by the eventual young people who engage with the Let’s Create packs, then that too will count (although counting it will be a challenge in itself).

Another wag, the psychologist Robert Sternberg (also not a basketball player) is a long-standing critic of standardised tests in education which measure what is measurable rather than what really matters: another take on the ‘counting what counts’ exhortation.

He’s written widely on the relationship between intelligence and creativity, coining the term “successful intelligence” to convey the idea that achievement comes not necessarily from IQ scores and education, but from what he calls the “WISC” model of liberal education – Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized. You can read about him here.

Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized: these are perhaps the things I should be looking out for next time I stand in front of that basketball hoop with ball in hand, wondering what to count next.

But in the meantime, just check out THESE figures!

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%

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 16 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: y = 1.8393x + 2.019

Not content with plotting the past, the numbers are now encouraging me to predict the future.

The genius of Excel allow you calculate a trendline based on past achievements, and plot your future with a high degree of mathematical certainty.  I’d say a precision level of certainty, found only in the Rolls Royce factories of Derby and the East Midlands.

This now means the end of idle guess work and those moments of anxiety fuelled by What the Heck? (or worse); Why On Earth? You’re ‘avin’ a laff’ can be replaced by the cool scientific endeavour of the linear forecast equation.

y = 1.8393x + 2.019

If you’ve been following the rather tortured trail of the last 15 days, you’ll have spotted the ever-increasing mountain of statistics which have led to the above statement.

It means in short, that I can be guaranteed that on day 20, I will have shot 39.8976 baskets; and by day 26 (the pinnacle of this challenge) I can safely predict a final score of 51.26118 baskets.  There’s a thought!  What 0.26118 of a basket consists of still has to be figured out but I’m guessing it’ll be something to do with those balls that spiral downwards, only to leap out again when you least expect it and when your invigilator has ticked it off as a score.

Praise the Lord for the Linear Forecast Equation and for the glimpse of the future it predicts!

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%

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 15 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: speaking in tongues

On one level, the figures speak for themselves:

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
Todays’ The day!

It’s taken 15 days to reach the target I set myself, and now of course will go on to set new targets of double the number of shots, seeing how long it will now take to reach 26 shots and who knows what else? I’m open to all sorts of other configurations of challenges which involve basketballs, hoops and the number 26. As long as it’s all completed by 23 May.

It’s taken 15 days to reach the target I set myself, and now of course will go on to set new targets of double the number of shots, seeing how long it will now take to reach 26 shots and who knows what else? I’m open to all sorts of other configurations of challenges which involve basketballs, hoops and the number 26. As long as it’s all completed by 23 May.

On another level though, figures don’t really speak for themselves do they?  They need interpreters or mediators: figures in authority who can tell you what they really really really mean.  The rhetoric of the Covid-19 Pandemic has been driven by the exhortation that we should follow the data; that the data tell us all we need to know when it comes to designing and implementing new public policy relating to social distancing, economic shut down and preserving the NHS.  Arguing with the data – or more accurately with those who supply and communicate it – is only likely to end in tears and insults on Twitter.

So we need to step carefully when making any public comment on basketballs converted, numbers of near misses, the time its taken and other factors which look indisputable to those with an eye on the numbers.  The data may look like they’re speaking for themselves but more often than not they’re the dummy to some-one else’s ventriloquists act.

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