Friday, 25 May 2018

American Express + Starwood Preferred Guest = 34,000 Avios

Earlier this year, I noticed a post at Head for Points which flagged up the potential to earn 25,000 for signing up for two American Express credit cards and meeting a relatively low minimum spend target in 90 days.

Having just completed the process (there was a delay in starting as I was working towards a minimum Gold spend), I discovered that there were actually 34,000 Avios available. The following steps give the process for maximising this collection opportunity.

The process demands a couple with the same address to be working on this together. For the sake of argument, I have called them Rapunzel and Flynn to help get through this tangled process.

  1. Both Rapunzel and Flynn need to sign up for free Starwood Preferred Guest membership at Both accounts need to have the same home address. Make a note of the membership numbers as they are needed later.
  2. Rapunzel needs to sign up for an American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card. Following this referral link earns an extra 1,000 SPG points when the minimum spend is hit. If she just signs up via the American Express website directly, she will miss out on this 1,000 points. As part of the application process, she will need to enter her SPG membership number. There is a £75 annual fee for this card which is refunded pro rata when it is cancelled.
  3. When Rapunzel's card arrives, she needs to spend £1,000 within the first 90 days. For this she earns the 1,000 points on the spend, and a bonus 10,000 for spending £1,000 within 90 days. (I use a combination of billhop and SumUp to ensure that the spend is as close to £1,000 as possible so as not to waste any odd points.)
  4. While she is spending her £1,000, Rapunzel needs to generate a referral code for Flynn via her online account.
  5. Flynn should then apply for his SPG card via the link he has received. Rapunzel will earn 5,000 points for having referred him.
  6. When Flynn's card arrives, he needs to spend £1,000 within the first 90 days. For this he earns the 1,000 points on the spend, and a bonus 10,000 for spending £1,000 within 90 days. Having been referred by Rapunzel, he also earns an additional bonus 1,000 points on the spend.
  7. When Rapunzel's 17,000 points have transferred to her SPG account and she has paid off her bill (which will have included the annual fee), she needs to cancel her Amex SPG card.
  8. When Flynn's 12,000 points have been transferred to his SPG account and he has paid off her bill (which will have included the annual fee), he needs to cancel his Amex SPG card.
  9. Flynn will then need to visit 'Pass the Starpoints, please' link when signed into his SPG account and transfer his 12,000 SPG points to Rapunzel's account.
  10. Finally, Rapunzel will need to transfer the combined 29,000 SPG points to her BA account via 'Transfer AirMiles' link when signed into her SPG account. As she is transferring over 20,000 points, she is awarded a bonus 5,000 Avios.
When you cancel an American Express card, you will receive a final statement which will have a credit balance for the pro rata refund of the annual fee. When this arrives, you will need to contact American Express and they will either arrange this to be returned to a bank account or credited to the balance of any other American Express card you may hold.

Having cancelled the Amex SPG cards, there is a minimum wait of six months from the date of cancellation before you will be entitled to earn any sign up bonuses on the cards again.

The original HfP post includes various other ways in which to use the amassed SPG points, but for Avios collectors, these are the 10 steps.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

English Resources from ZigZag

A couple of years ago, I discovered that ZigZag Education offers the opportunity for people to review their resources before publication through their author portal. Reviewers earn a voucher for their reviews which can be redeemed against ZigZag's resources. Over the past couple of years, I have reviewed several resources and was able to buy some £200-worth of resources for my department last term.

As well as helping to ensure that a largish educational publisher is selling quality resources, I think this is a useful CPD opportunity for teachers, and I have encouraged my staff to sign up to review material.

Below are two reviews (the questions are predefined) which I have written for ZigZag: I purchased the A-Level Language one for the department, and I confess I found some useful ideas in the GCSE Literature one which I duly borrowed, but careful budgeting meant I could not justify buying it to supplement the work staff had already put into our own lesson planning and resources.

The link in the review title will take you to the resource's page on ZigZag. I do not earn any commission from any sales, but I did receive a voucher and a box of chocolates for republishing my reviews here!

Note on the formatting: This review was based on a draft of the resource that had not yet been formatted. Before publication, it was professionally formatted by one of our designers. 

1. On the whole what did you think about this resource?
This is a really good resource which provides a really useful teaching and revision tool. The content is varied and meets the requirements of the specification and provides scope for students to develop their thinking and research beyond the specification if they want.

2. What you particularly like/dislike about this resource?
The inclusion of annotated texts and suggested answers is always really helpful - both for teachers and students! - and the section on comparisons looks as if it would work really well to allow students to develop their responses.

3. How this resource enhances learning?
The resource provides unseen texts which can be used for both teaching and revision and supplements exisiting material well. The focus on spoken texts is nice as text books often contain just a single example. The inclusion of a glossary and the theories meets the demands of the specification well.

4. Comments on presentation and layout?
The transcripts could be presented in the centre of the page to maximise space around them for annotation. It would be nice not to have the panel on the right of every page (especially for the notes pages) as it's only relevant for the annotated transcripts.

5. Specification and level reviewer teaches (e.g. AQA A AS/A2)
AQA A-Level Language

6. How does the resource match and interpret this specification?
This meets the demands of both the AS and A-Level AQA specification well. The questions match the AO requirements and the advice and information is what AQA demand.

7. Suggestions for improving this resource?
Beyond the tidying up that will take place before publication, I don't think there is anything particular which would stop this being used today. It might be nice to include a couple of full responses to the question (not just the 'short' questions) to allow students to compare essays against their own work to allow them to self/peer assess and become more critical of their own work.

8. Would you purchase this resource?

...and having used it, I can confirm the material I used did work well with a Year 12 group, and the remaining material will be revisted in Year 13 as revision.

Note on the formatting: this review was based on a draft of the resource that had not yet been formatted. Before publication, it was be professionally formatted by one of our designers. 

1. On the whole what did you think about this resource?
Overall, I was very impressed with the content of this pack: there is a great deal of useful and useable material.

2. What you particularly like/dislike about this resource?
I particularly liked the depth of detail about each of the poems, the suggested answers, the inclusion of suggested pairings and the sample answers. There is nothing to dislike.

3. How this resource enhances learning?
The resource is initially useful to teachers who may be unfamiliar with some of the poems in the anthology. To students it would be allow self-directed study, but at GCSE is possibly more likely to be used as a revision tool or the fill in blanks from missed lessons.

4. Comments on presentation and layout?
It is very text heavy: even breaking up the opening analyses with the inclusion of poets' images would be welcome.

5. Specification and level reviewer teaches (e.g. AQA A AS/A2)
AQA English Language and English Literature at both GCSE and A-Level.

6. How does the resource match and interpret this specification?
The resource matches the new specification really well and is closely focused on the material that AQA has released so far. This is a great feature in its favour.

7. Suggestions for improving this resource?
Would it be possible to include copies of the poems in the pack? This would make it a little more useful as a whole to save having to have the anthology too. Another very small suggestion would be to include the questions on the suggested answers page for each poem to save refering back. Could blank(er) copies of the linking mindmaps be included to use as worksheets so students could work on creating the pairings - and reasons for pairings - themselves?

8. Would you purchase this resource?

9. Other comments?
Thank you for a really useful resource which will certainly support the first teaching of a new specification.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Homemade Nakd Bars Recipe

My daughter recently demonstrated a penchant for Nakd bars to replace her toddler snacks. With their natural ingredients, we were happy with this, but the price made this a prohibitively expensive snack. However, I also thought that this meant they should be easy to make at home. I therefore consulted the ingredients lists, did a couple of calculations to turn percentages in weights and googled a little to see what other people's experiences with homemade nakdness was. This - very simple - recipe is the result.


  • 180g Medjool dates (these will need to be pitted, but are juicier than 'standard' dates)
  • 180g cashew nuts
  • 65g raisins
  • 25g 70% chocolate
  • teaspoonful of vanilla extract
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and turn it on. The mixture will look quite dry and seem to thump a lot as it is processed, but leave the machine running and eventually it should come together in a solid ball. (This did take a few minutes, and my ancient food processor did start getting quite warm as the final mixture is quite stiff.)
  2. Line a 1lb loaf tin with cling film. (There is time to do this while the food processor is processing.)
  3. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin and press down to form a flattened rectangle. (I found another loaf tin pressed down on the mixture was quite helpful with this.)
  4. Fold the cling film over the top of the mixture and put in the fridge overnight to chill.
  5. Unwrap the slab of fruity goodness and slice it into 12 (or fewer if you like larger portions) bars. I wrapped each bar in a square of greaseproof paper and twisted the ends. These then seem to keep quite happily in the fridge for a couple of weeks at least. (They were all eaten by this time, so they may last longer if you exercise greater self-control.)
I am confident that any of the other flavours can be made very simply by adapting the ingredients based on the percentages printed on the official products' wrappers. My choice of 180g for the dates was simply based on the packet size sold in the supermarket.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Young Adult Fiction: Technology Reading List

Having updated the blogged reading list for my doctoral research on a somewhat irregular basis over the years and compiled them a couple of years ago, they are somewhat bitty.

This is therefore an updated bibliographical list which will form an appendix for my thesis in the (hopefully not too distant) future. I have removed the blurb which was present in previous lists, as each title links to Amazon where much more information can be found.

Anderson, MT (2002) Feed
London: Walker Books.

Anderson, MT (2004) The Game of Sunken Places
New York: Scholastic.

Ashby, Madeline (2012) vN
Nottingham: Angry Robot.

Ashby, Madeline (2013) iD
Nottingham: Angry Robot.

Asher, Jay & Mackler, Carolyn (2011) The Future of Us
London: Simon & Schuster.

Bacigalupi, Paolo (2009) The Windup Girl
London: Orbit.

Bannon, James (2011) i2
Los Angeles: Banco Picante Press.

Barnes, Jennifer Lynn (2013) The Naturals
London: Quercus.

Blackman, Malorie (1999) Dangerous Reality
London: Doubleday.

Bradbury, Jason (2009) Dot.Robot
London: Puffin.

Briggs, Andy (2008) Rise of the Heroes
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Briggs, Andy (2008) Council of Evil
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brooks, Kevin (2010) iBoy
London: Penguin.

Cabot, Meg (2008) Airhead
London: Random House.

Card, Orson Scott (1977/1985/1991) Ender's Game
New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

Clarke, Cassandra Rose (2013) The Mad Scientist's Daughter
Nottingham: Angry Robot.

Cline, Ernest (2011) Ready Player One
London: Arrow Books.

Cline, Ernest (2015) Armada
London: Random House.

Collins, BR (2011) Gamerunner
London: Bloomsbury.

Collins, BR (2012) MazeCheat
London: Bloomsbury.

Collins, Suzanne (2008) The Hunger Games
London: Scholastic.

Collins, Suzanne (2009) Catching Fire (Hunger Games Book 2)
London: Scholastic.

Collins, Suzanne (2010) Mockingjay (Hunger Games Book 3)
London: Scholastic.

Condie, Ally (2010) Matched
London: RazorBill.

Dalquist, Gordon (2013) The Different Girl
New York: Dutton Books.

Dashner, James (2011) The Maze Runner
Frome: Chicken House.

Dashner, James (2013) The Eye of the Minds
New York: Delacorte Press.

Dashner, James (2014) The Rule of Thoughts (Mortality Doctrine 2)
London: Random House.

Dashner, James (2015) The Game of Lives (Mortality Doctrine 3)
London: Random House.

Day, Susie (2010 (2008)) serafina67 *urgently requires life*
New York: Scholastic.

Dickinson, Peter (2001 (1998)) Eva
London: Macmillan.

Doctorow, Cory (2008) Little Brother
London: Harper Voyager.

Doctorow, Cory (2012) Pirate Cinema
New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

Driza, Debra (2013) MILA 2.0
London: HarperCollins.

Driza, Debra (2013) MiLA 2.0 Origin: The Fire
London: HarperCollins.

Driza, Debra (2014) MiLA 2.0: Renegade
London: HarperCollins.

Falkner, Brian (2011) brainjack
London: Walker Books.

Fisher, Catherine (2007) Incarceron
London: Hodder Children's Books.

Goldman, EM (1995) The Night Room
London: Puffin.

Harrison, Kate (2011) Soul Beach
London: Indigo.

Harrison, Kate (2012) Soul Fire
London: Indigo.

Hodkin, Michelle (2012) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
London: Simon & Schuster.

Horton, Ben (2010) Monster Republic
London: Corgi Books.

Hoyle, Fred (2010 (1957)) The Black Cloud
London: Penguin.

Lancaster, Mike (2011) 0.4
London: Egmont.

Lancaster, Mike (2012) 1.4
London: Egmont.

Landstrom, Sam (2010) Metagame
Las Vegas: Amazon Encore.

Lassiter, Rhiannon (1998) Hex
London: Macmillan.

Lassiter, Rhiannon (1999) Hex: Shadows
London: Macmillan.

Lassiter, Rhiannon (2000) Hex: Ghosts
London: Macmillan Children's Books.

Leigh, Jena (2012) Revival

Lewis, Stewart (2011) You have seven messages
New York: Delacorte Press.

Lloyd, Saci (2011) Momentum
London: Hodder Children's Books.

London, Alex (2013) Proxy
New York: Philomel Books.

Lord, Karen (2013) The Best of All Possible Worlds
London: Jo Fletcher Books.

McEvoy, Seth (1986) All Geared Up (Not Quite Human Book 2)
London: Dragon Grafton Books.

McLaughlin, Lauren (2011) Scored
New York: Random House.

Merle, Claire (2012) Glimpse
London: Faber & Faber.

Meyer, Marissa (2012) Cinder
London: Puffin.

Meyer, Marissa (2013) Scarlet
London: Penguin.

Miller, Lauren (2014) Free to fall
New York: HarperCollins.

Murail, Marie-Aude, Murail, Lorris & Murail, Elvire (2002) Golem 1: Magic Berber
London: Walker Books.

Murphy, Pat (2012 (1987)) Rachel in Love
Untreed Reads.

Myers, EC (2012) Fair Coin
New York: Pyr.

Myracle, Lauren (2004) ttyl
New York: Amulet Books.

Naam, Ramez (2013) Crux
Nottingham: Angry Robot.

Naam, Ramez (2013) Nexus
Nottingham: Angry Robot.

Ness, Patrick (2013) More Than This
London: Walker Books.

Nix, Garth (2012) A Confusion of Princes
London: HarperCollins.

Odle, EV (1923) The Clockwork Man
London: Doubleday, Page & Co..

Oliver, Lauren (2011) Delirium
London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Patrick, Cat (2013) The Originals
New York: Little Brown and Company.

Pearson, Mary (2011) The Rotten Beast
Macmillan USA.

Pearson, Mary E (2010) The Adoration of Jenna Fox
London: Walker Books.

Philbrick, Rodman (2006) The Last Book in the Universe
London: Usborne Publishing Ltd.

Plaisted, Caroline (2001) e-love
London: Piccadilly Press.

Plum-Ucci, Carol (2008) Streams of Babel
Orlando: Houghton Mifflin.

Price, Lissa (2012) Starters
London: Doubleday.

Revis, Beth (2014) The Body Electric
Scripturient Books.

Rose, Malcolm (2010) Jordan Stryker: Bionic Agent
London: Usborne Publishing Ltd.

Roth, Veronica (2011) Divergent
London: HarperCollins.

Roth, Veronica (2012) Insurgent
London: HarperCollins.

Rush, Jennifer (2013) Altered
New York: Hachette.

Seifert, Christine (2011) The Predicteds
Naperville: Sourcebook Fire.

Shusterman, Neal (2008) Unwind
London: Simon & Schuster.

Shusterman, Neal (2012) Unwholly
London: Simon & Schuster.

Stephenson, Neal (1992) Snow Crash
London: Penguin.

Terry, Teri (2012) Slated
London: Orchard Books.

Terry, Teri (2013) Fractured
London: Orchard Books.

Terry, Teri (2015) Mind Games
London: Orchard Books.

Thorpe, David (2007) Hybrids
London: HarperCollins.

Tintera, Amy (2013) Reboot
New York: Harper Teens.

Tsui, Susan (2012) You Shouldn't Call Me Mommy
Oneiros Press.

Vizzini, Ned (2004) Be More Chill
New York: Miramax Books.

Wasserman, Robin (2007) Hacking Harvard
New York: Simon Pulse.

Wasserman, Robin (2009) Crashed
London: Simon & Schuster.

Wasserman, Robin (2009) Skinned
London: Simon & Schuster.

Wasserman, Robin (2010) Wired
London: Simon & Schuster.

Wells, Robinson (2012) Feedback
London: Harper Teen.

Wells, Robison (2011) Variant
New York: HarperCollins.

Wells, Robison (2013) Blackout
New York: HarperCollins.

Westerfield, Scott (2004) So yesterday
New York: RazorBill.

Westerfield, Scott (2005) Uglies
London: Simon & Schuster.

Young, Suzanne (2013) The Program
New York: Simon Pulse.

Zadoff, Allen (2013) Boy Nobody
London: Orchard Books.