Category Archives: General

In praise of integration?

Janet Daley, writing in The Telegraph about being an immigrant to the UK:

What does choosing to live in another country mean in today’s world? To my mind then (and now) there is no question that I had decided to become, for almost all intents and purposes, British. The whole point of my decision was that I admired the values and attitudes of this country. Why else choose to live here?

Residing in a country did not seem to me to be simply a matter of adopting a flag of convenience under which it would be possible to live any way one liked so long as the local circumstances facilitated it. In fact, the old countries of Europe were attractive precisely because they had established cultural histories and an inherited stability that the US – with its constant social churn and neurotic insecurity – lacked. You came to live in Britain because you wanted to be part of what Britain was.

The European Union’s “free movement of people” rule and its obtuse confusion over the assimilation of migrants seem deliberately designed to undermine any such notion of cohesive national identity.

What will preserve the integrity of a nation’s institutions if the collective memory of its history is lost?
You need not choose anymore. Your habits and social assumptions need not change. You can have it all: any number of nationalities; a whole wallet file of identity documents; a peripatetic working life that drifts in and out of what would once have been communities but are now simply transit stops in a migratory existence.

Maybe you think this is progress. I can understand the argument which says that it is liberating: a new form of personal freedom. For the young and unattached, this may be – temporarily – true. What bliss to come and go across defunct borders, working and living without encumbrance wherever you please, as if life were a permanent gap-year adventure.

But what happens after that? When the responsibilities of grown-up life cause people to long for rootedness and a real sense of hereditary belonging – what then?

And then there is the more urgent political issue: what will preserve the integrity of a nation’s institutions if the collective memory of its history is lost?

All characters portrayed are entirely fictional…

You know that strange disclaimer that appears at the end of every film? The earliest movies, of course, don’t have it. Have you ever wondered how it started?

Well, there lived a certain man in Russia long ago

No trouble at mill

No trouble at t'mill

We paddled from home, through Grantchester, past Byron’s Pool and out towards Hauxton before breakfast this morning. Most enjoyable. This is the mill at Grantchester, taken from just beside Jeffrey Archer’s garden.

Saw kingfishers, ducklings, a comorant… Enjoyed a cup of coffee up a little tributary before turning for home.

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Power pricing

Here’s a very rough rule of thumb which I find exceedingly useful:

If something uses 1W of electricity, and it’s switched on all the time (24 x 7), it will cost about £1/year in electricity.

So, for example, I have an elderly Mac Mini next to my television which used to be on all the time because it was my ‘media centre’ – it recorded things from the TV onto disk, etc. It takes about 80-100W, so it costs me roughly that many pounds per year, which means that if I turn it off I can get my Netflix subscription for free!

All sorts of calculations become pretty straightforward.

  • I have a second display for my iMac, which uses about 60W. (I’ve just measured it.) So that would be £60/year, but it’s only on for about 8hrs/day, so £20/year.

  • If a salesman tells you a new fridge will save you an average of 40W compared to your current fridge, but costs £400, you can work out easily that it’ll pay for itself in about 10 years.

In case you’re curious, this rule assumes you pay about 11.5p/kWh for your electricity, which is close enough for most UK residents. I forget who first pointed the convenient annual multiplication out to me, but I find myself using it all the time, so I thought I’d pass it on!

Lend me your ears

Most of my ‘reading’ these days is in audiobook form. I have more time, and I’m more alert, when I’m driving or walking the dog than when I’m sleepily in bed after a long day and a glass or two of wine (though I do read in bed as well). I’ve written before about this — have a look at this post for some recommendations. The main advantage of listening over reading, of course, is that you can do it while leaving your eyes free for other tasks.

Listening to a book is different from reading it, of course – better in some ways, inferior in others – but some people also feel it’s cheating. Melissa Dahl, writing in New York magazine, suggests it isn’t.

Excerpt:

Researchers have studied the question of comprehension for decades, and “what you find is very high correlations of reading comprehension and listening comprehension,” Willingham said. As science writer Olga Khazan noted in 2011, a “1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension — suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well. In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it.” Listeners and readers retain about equal understanding of the passages they’ve consumed, in other words.

Decoding, by contrast, is specific to reading, Willingham said; this is indeed one more step your mind has to take when reading a print book as compared to listening to the audiobook version. But by about late elementary school, decoding becomes so second-nature that it isn’t any additional “work” for your brain. It happens automatically.

According to the simple model of reading, then, you really can’t consider listening to a book to be easier than reading it.

For the record, though, I’d like people to know that I always listen to unabridged versions…

Thought for the day: talking to aliens

More great stuff from Neil deGrasse Tyson. Lots of good stuff in this collection of clips, but I like the 6-min section beginning at 9:53…

Simply messing about…

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

Actually, I would recommend messing about in boats at breakfast time with a flask of freshly-brewed coffee and a bag of freshly-baked croissants.

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Lovely clear water this morning on the Little Ouse between Brandon and Thetford.

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The neighbours seemed friendly:

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And even the Ship’s Dog had a good time.

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Many thanks to CanoeDaysOut for suggesting the location.

It’s good to know somebody’s thinking about this…

When I woke up this morning, I wondered “How can I make the most of my sewerage services today?”

Fortunately, somebody at Anglian Water had predicted that many people were contemplating this very question, and so had posted a leaflet through our door about it.

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When 140 characters would be considered a luxury

My cousin found this among my late aunt’s effects recently… it’s the telegram she received in Sussex from the small town in Kenya where I was born. Phone calls were, of course, basically impossible.

telegram

How communications have changed in one lifetime!

My next electric vehicle?

I missed this when it came out nearly a year ago…

More information on their Indiegogo page and at Modobag.com.

Hillary Blofeld?

Wow! I thought Hillary Clinton was just an American politician. But according to Donald Trump last night, she’s some kind of global potentate: a villain that would be rejected by Bond film producers as far too implausible:

After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have?

ISIS has spread across the region, and the world.

Libya is in ruins, and our Ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers.

Iraq is in chaos.

Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons.

Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis that now threatens the West.

After fifteen years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.

This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.

What’s really shocking is that, on top of doing all that, she also used the wrong SMTP server!

You don’t need just one Mount Olympus

The London 2012 Olympics was, in my opinion, the biggest waste of taxpayers’ money to have occurred in my lifetime. For the amount it cost, we could have employed 500 teachers for nearly 1000 years. I’m not saying that the games shouldn’t have happened — there seem to be lots of people who enjoy watching other people jump into piles of sand — I simply think that it should have been funded entirely from the ticket prices and TV advertising.

It is, of course, entirely predictable — the Olympics is a financial disaster for almost every country that hosts it — but it’s less of a disaster for countries like the UK who have enough cash that they can take it in their stride. But when countries like Brazil, who have much more trouble funding their health services than we do, take it on, it probably moves from being stupid to being downright immoral.

So Paul Christesen’s article, Making the case for a new Olympic model, makes a lot of sense to me, and should not only dramatically cut costs, but should also reduce the large number of (essentially abandoned) stadia — I’ve visited quite a few of them — still standing around the world as monuments to the folly of politicians past. Actually, follies is a good word for them! Understandable follies, perhaps — Panem et circenses and all that, if you’ll excuse my mixing of classical references — but follies nonetheless.

It would be good for the Olympics to continue to exist, but for heaven’s sake, let’s do it in a way that makes sense in the modern world.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser