Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The plimsoles,runners,trainers & football boots of our childhood

I originally posted this on a streetwear forum on 20th November

This is primarily intended for the older British boys amongst us, who were schoolboys in the 60s and 70s. Just a bit of fun, hope some of you can get a nostalgic smile or heart twinge out of long forgotten days and long forgotten footwear.

Remembering school plimsoles with the instep elastic rather than laces, usually in black or navy. Made of canvas, rubber soled. Completely flat, no heel,no support. And having to do cross country runs in them....could you imagine what the authorities would do if a school did that nowadays, permitted kids to run cross country in totally unsuitable footwear?

Then later, moving on to lace-up plimsoles. And those of us who did military service back in the 70s and early 80s will remember the agony those things caused. Well, that was the bad stuff, now for some good stuff

Then at school, football and rugby boots were always considered as either weapons or a necessary evil. I remember having inherited a pair of really old (roughly 1940s or 50s), heavy, proper boot-height football boots, way up over the ankle bone, with aluminium studs. So no one came near me on the field when I played football or rugby in those things, they were weapons. Totally different to the lightweight football shoes of today with plastic studs.

The brands we had in football boots in the 70s were Mitre, Diadora, Lotto, Umbro, Gola, and Bata. I don't remember ever seeing anyone playing foortball or rugby in Adidas or Puma back then, but maybe there were. I just don't remember them. I remember having Lotto and Bata boots (Bata Made in England - orignally a Czechoslovakian company. Lotto like Diadora originally Italian).


Now a few weeks ago I got chatting to a couple of mates, all 3 of us between 45 and 55, and so we started verbally listing the makes of trainers we had on the street and when out running, back in the 60s and 70s. As well as what we were wearing on the pitch. Apart from the aforementioned football/rugby boot brands, the first classic we all remembered of course was the Dunlop Green Flash - which in all honesty was basically a canvas lace-up plimsole with a slightly better sole and some support. http://www.rubbersole.co.uk/dunlop_lace_green.aspx

Then the next classic was the black adidias running shoe with white stripes. When I was a kid Adidas came in a whole range of colours from black to white (with nothing inbetween - shades of Henry Ford) And of course the all white Stan Smiths. And the green soled Adidas white tennis shoes with the green heel top. Surprisingly though, the whites with black stripes is not something I remember from back then, again just my memory perhaps.
And of course cricket boots and tennis shoes from Slazenger.


Now whose heart here still skips a nostlagic beat when he sees a pair of classic sleek black Pumas. Or a pair of Gola Harriers? I know mine does.I recently bought a pair of those classic black Pumas with black suede toe and heel and white Puma track on the side. My next purchase will be a pair of the reissued classic Gola Harriers. http://www.golaclassics.com/ProductList.asp?CategoryID=6 Click on any shoe for a whole range of colour combinations in that style.

Of course this would be the Harrier for me: http://www.golaclassics.com/ProductD...rID=2200&Set=1

And how 70s retro is this for example: http://www.golaclassics.com/ProductD...rID=2411&Set=0

So this is it as I remember it when I was a schoolboy mid 60s to 1978.

Trainers/runners (on the street, in the park, at home but never permitted with school uniform during school hours or en route to and from school. And woe betide the schoolboy who was caught anywhere between his house door and the classroom wearing trainers):
Adidas
Dunlop
Gola
Puma

Football and rugby boots:
Bata
Lotto
Mitre
Umbro

Cricket boots and tennis shoes:
Adidas
Dunlop
Slazenger

So back then, in London, we had:
no Nike, no Reebok, no Bagheera, no Brooks, no Asics, no New Balance, no Fila, no Converse, no Fred Perry, no Lacoste, no Le Coq Sportif.


My holy trinity:
1.Puma
2.Adidas
3.Gola

Trivia fact: Rudolph "Rudi" Dassler the founder of Puma, had previously set up Adidas the world's first athletic shoe maker with his brother Adolph "Adi" Dassler in 1924. Have a look at that name again Adi Dassler.They had a falling out in the 40s and so Rudi set up his own company, Puma.

And for the real trainer freaks amongst us, Puma in a kind of a "Toyota-making-Lexus-as-an-exclusive-model" way, now has a Rudolf D Schuhfabrik range - Rudidas as I like to jokingly call it.
For example, these beauties. http://www.yoox.com/item.asp?cod10=44119764&TP=5990
The "Rudidas" don't have the Puma track but a Puma itself and a Rudolph D emblem.

Keep running!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Detectives and mysteries

Suddenly I feel an urge, after a discussion on another forum, to talk about detective and mystery writers.

I'm a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, I have been for years. And he was best portrayed as I'm sure we all agree by Jeremy Brett.
Caleb Carr's Doctor Kreizler of two novels is also a favourite.Not forgetting of course that Carr recently wrote a Sherlock Holmes novel, The Italian Secretary, which I thoroughly enjoyed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Italian_Secretary
Fans of both Doyle & Carr are now of course calling for Carr to invite Holmes to Gotham (New York for those of you not familiar with the old nickname for that city) to work with Kreizler or the Dr. to London to work with Holmes.
I also enjoyed Laurie R King's interpretations of Holmes in the first couple of decades of the 20th C as seen through the eyes of Holmes' young American wife Mary Russell in the Mary Russell Mysteries series. The only one that dragged and was altogether unsatisfactory was "Locked Rooms". All the others, which I've read, were superb.
Ian Rankin's John Rebus is my current favourite contemporary detective, mostly operating in Edinburgh, in the 21st C.
Years ago of course I read many of Colin Dexter's excellent Inspector Morse novels.
Another favourite contemporary detective is Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks. Although Banks' novels can drag a little bit too.
The hard-boiled American stuff has never appealed to me nor the splatter type detective/CSI stuff.
Reginald Hill and PD James were for me just too slow, too old fashioned and too boring.
Minette Walters, Elizabeth George and Caroline Graham all seem to deal more in tweedy quaint English countryside murder (a la some of Agatha Christie's work) rather than real police work. The Midsomer Murders are more farce than detective series, as far as I'm concerned.

But by far and away my most favourite detective of all time, more so than Rebus, Holmes and Morse is Andrew Martin's Jim Stringer- railway detective. Read them in order starting with The Necropolis Railway (which really existed- running from Waterloo Station to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey) and just soak up the ambience he creates of steam railways and crime and England in the golden years before the Great War.http://www.jimstringernovels.com/page3.htm

You won't regret it I promise you.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Responding to idiots (clicka här för VF)

FOR MY SWEDISH READERS

Min insändare till VF - fredag 5 sept 08

Sluta försvara brottslingar!
Svar till pragmatikern 3 sept.

Jag undrar om du och Bror Duktig, och Bror Obildad och Bror Smarto och vad ni nu har för andra noms de plume inser hur dumma ni låter.

Du, Pragmatikern, precis som alla dessa Bröder är ingenting mer än en försvarare för våldtäktsmän och rånare.

Om vi nu ska ta din vridna logik till sin logiska slutsats då skulle du också försvara en våldtäktsman som våldtog din mor, syster, flickvän, fru, eller dotter när de var kanske lättklädda under sommaren och vinglade hem sent nån kväll efter några öl?

Men nej, jag misstänker att du skulle då vara lika hycklande som du är provocerande med dina dumma inlägg och hitta på nån ursäkt för varför det var fel just denna gång att våldta den lättklädda salongsberusade kvinnan som råkade vara släkt med dig!

Alla har rätt att vara dumma och att göra dumma saker som att inte ta en taxi hem mitt på natten eller vandrar in i farliga områden men sånt dumhet är absolut ingen ursäkt för våldtäkt och rån!

Sluta med att försvara brottslingar!

JAMES BUTLER


Och här är den dumma insändaren från idioten pragmatikern 3 sept 08

Borde tagit taxi...

Apropå kvinnor och våldtäktsmänJag tror en viss pragmatism i ämnet kan vara på sin plats. Har en kvinna rätt att gå klädd hur hon vill, var och när hon vill och samtidigt vara kraftigt berusad? Absolut, ingen tvekan om det.

Finns det fog för att säga att hon får skylla sig själv om hon blir antastad vid vissa premisser baserade på uppräknade faktorer? Där i ligger kärnfrågan, eller?Jag tänkte söka ett svar på den frågan med en analogi.Besitter en man samma uppräknade rättigheter som en kvinna? Absolut, ingen tvekan om det.

MEN! Om en man i armanikostym, skimrande rolex och blänkande dolce-gabanabälte, pratandes högljutt och sluddrande i sin mobil på en vinglig vandring genom Harlem i New York klockan 02.00 blir påhoppad, rånad och kraftigt misshandlad. Får han skylla sig själv? Personligen anser jag att han var en riktig idiot som inte tog taxi hem...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympics, schmalympics

Quite a few of the "sports" (and I use the term sports lightly) at the olympics are similar to the late night sports shown on cable and satellite channels at all hours from 10 pm onwards when you've put the kids to bed or come in from the pub and you simply have a craving to see some sport and when anything will do as long as it is sport. "Sports" for example like darts, snooker, golf, endless poker programmes, American fake wrestling, ultimate fighting, air races in souped up small planes, 2-a-side beach volleyball and a whole range of various uninteresting and uninspiring motorbike and saloon car races in Germany, Italy, Holland and so on....

I make this comparison because every day at work since the olympics started I'm watching grown men (mostly) and some women watching the most obscure sports on TV during working hours and listening to them discussing them. Often the most worrying part is how they discuss them, as if they are suddenly experts in some new sport they've suddenly developed an extremely profound interest in, for example, women's softball...well I know why the men are
interested in that sport. Any sport that has women in tight tops and waving their arms about frantically is going to garner massive interest from the male population.


This craving for all sorts of sport regardless of quality and type is another clear indication that markets have totally gone from being governed by demand to being governed by supply from TV channels and various sporting organisations.

In exactly the same way that the mobile phone branch has taken complete control of and has dominated and created demand for its products, especially over the last 10 years, regardless of what individuals actually need.

The motto in today's society, from the powers that be both behind the olympics and the mobile phone branch is clearly:
You don't know what you need or want until we've told you, then shown you, then convinced you, then converted you, then sold you the product, be it floor gymnastics with ribbons, hoola hoops and balls to the latest all-singing, all-dancing mobile phone.

Welcome to the 21st century......now I must rush home to see some women's softball...apparently the US team are very good ;O) Or at least they wear the tightest tops...apparently, according to a work colleague :O)

The Swedish version

Here it is in Swedish, the similarity of some words and some deliberately incorrect Swedish grammar make it work, therefore it doesn't work in English.

De var en gång en svart räka
Som trodde sig vara en råka
Men en vän sa "Kanske är du en Kråka"
Och en till vän sa "Nej, inte fågel alls,
Men kanske är du en kräft-a för att du är så stor-a"
Men räkan sa bara "krax, krax"
Och sen hördes en flax, flax, och då var han borta.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nonsense animal poem with a linguistic twist

While cycling home on Tuesday I found myself getting sillier and sillier as I composed a little Edward Lear like nonsense poem about animals in my head, which I would now like to share with you.

However, with a little linguistic twist, the poem I composed in my head was in Swedish so I am going to write it in Swedish but using the Irish alphabet and its pronunciation of letters.
Some help along the way though, the Irish alphabet,which predates the English by almost a thousand years, and which is almost the same as the Latin, does not contain the following letters:

J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, Z and of course none of the later various European accented, cedillaed or umlauted letters either.

So the English hard J sound as in James does not exist in Irish, in the same way that it doesn't exist in French either.

Instead, also like the French, S followed by an accented vowel does the job, for example Séamas is pronouned like a French person saying James i.e Shay-mass, and that "Latin/romance" pronunciation is exactly why James in Irish is Séamas.

C is always pronunced in Irish as K
Q is the same as K anyway so C is used there too.
V is sounded in Irish by the consonant pair BH
W is sounded in Irish by the consonant pair MH
X (as in max or rex) is sounded in Irish, as it is in the Norwegian KS, by the logical consonant pair CS. And sometimes by CH, which sometimes also sounds like a throaty gurgled K, as in Bach and loch.
Y is covered by several combinations.
The English Z sound is not used in Irish
RH is a soft R. some other combinations also soften the consonants. And in some only the first letter of the combination is pronounced. For exmaple the Irish word for table is exavtly the same as in Swedish bord. However, "the table" is "an mbord" which is pronounced "uh mord"

So here it is (Irish spelling and pronunciation conventions only NOT vocab or word order, which remain Swedish. Title in Swedish to get you started)

Det var en gång en svart räka

De bhar en gángh en sbhart rhaica
Som trodde sé bhara en rháca
Men en bhain sa "Chansé air du en chráca"
Och en till bhain sa "Né, inte fágel alls, men chansé air du en chraiftha fer at du air sá stora"
Men rhaican sa bara "chracs, chracs" och sen hurdes en fhlacs, fhlacs och dá bhar han bortha.

If you're up for the challenge you can post your correct translation to standard Swedish here as a comment to this post.


Slan go foill (See you later)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Touristy things we didn't do in London

We didn't go to the tower of London or Madame Tussauds and we didn't eat fish & chips(I wanted to but A, just didn't find time to cram it in and B, simply forgot) . We didn't go on a sightseeing bus or sightseeing tour of any kind. We didn't go on the London eye.

What we did do though was show our sons where we used to live and the parks and museums and places we used to visit as Londoners.

And of course we took them to the seven floors of toys that is Hamley's Toy Shop. And took them on loads of double decker buses and tubes, which they loved and to several adventure playgrounds which they also loved!

Oh and before I forget

Penguins, which swim linearly under water like seals and dolphins, which can't fly, and which seem to have fur rather than feathers are to me not birds, they are some kind of hybrid dinosaur-mammal as far as I'm concerned.

And the duck billed platypus with its...well, duck's bill, webbed feet and egg laying is not a mammal in my book, it is some kind of bird-mammal hybrid. So what, if it's got four legs!

Anyway these two creatures simply support my long-held opinion that the biologists of the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries must have just got bored at creating all those families, classes, genuses and species, resulting in these two and some other unusual species, (like the species of shark, supposedly a fish, that gives birth to live young rather than eggs) slipping through the net and ending up incorrectly classified as birds and mammals. So by the end anything with four legs and a fur coat had to be a mammal and anything without fully developed upper limbs had to be a bird.

Penguins are not birds, I don't care what you say. And the cheetah with its dog like head and body and non-retractable dog-like claws and with no relatives in the cat family is not a cat! It is a canine!

Post-holiday explosion post

Now back at work after my holiday. And so many things happened during it, just before it and after it that I just have to unload here in an explosive manner in one post, then service will be resumed as usual.

My family and I spent the last week of July in London:

  • It has become extremely expensive in London

The only thing that was cheaper in London than in Sweden was the clothes sales. Bought some lovely sports shirts and a coat at extremely reduced prices, often 80% off!

  • The air fare with Ryanaior was extremely cheap 2,800 SEK return for 4 of us
  • It doesn't feel safe to walk about at nightitme in London anymore
  • The humidity was up in the 80s, that added to an overcrowded tourist packed city just made the weather unbearable
  • The vast majority of shop staff, bus, tube and train staff have problems understanding basic English - very irritating
  • Foodstuffs are full of much more additives, nitrates and sulphates than in Sweden -not at all healthy
  • Glad to leave after a week

I never cease to be amazed at what some Swedes think is suitable attire for various semi-formal and formal occasions and what is and what isn't suitable behaviour at such occasions. Turning up in Crocs and getting completely pissed by 9 pm and behaving like an idiot seems to be totally acceptable to some.

Why do roadworks and the laying of heating pipes and so on take sooooo bloody long in Sweden? Probably partly because roadworkers and pipe layers in Sweden, unlike those in the UK, all seem to have long lunch breaks, finish work at about 3pm, have every Friday and weekend off, and have summer holidays in the middle of projects. It just wouldn't...well it simply isn't tolerated in the UK! Projectys are worked on in shifts often around the clock and at weekends until the job is done. That way the disruption to traffic and residents is as short a period as possible.

USA, UK and EU and Nato once again all criticise Russia in typical russophobia knee-jerk reaction mode and take the side of Georgia without finding out the full facts.

When Grenada was "invaded" by Cuban troops, the US sent troops to Grenada to protect the US citizens and kick the Cubans out. ...hhhmmmm...sounds fmailiar...yea the US then did exactly what Russia is doing now...protecting its citizens in another country.

Under the Soviet Union the South Ossetians had autonomy. But when the USSR dissolved in 91, Georgia tried to claim South Ossetia, who simply said "No" and "Why? we were autonomous under the USSR why should Georgia claim us now"

The only reason Georgia, the US, UK, Nato and EU are making such a stance here is because of the oil.

The South Ossetian freedom fighters (supported by Russia) have my support!

A few weeks ago I found out that in English HBT is GLBT. Then today I found out that in South Africa they say GLBTI. The I apparently stands for intersexual. As my favourite singer Morrissey said "There is no such thing as normal" good!

Today if my father was alive he would have been celebrating his 72nd birthday. However, sadly he died aged 53 in 1989 - after a 14 year illness.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some countries, in this case the USA, never learn from history

I'm indulging in a bit of provocative lateral "what-if" thinking.

The US and Israel have started rattling sabres again this time towards Iran because they're afeared that Iran's uranium enriching programme is intended for the manufacture of nuclear warheads for missiles, so the US and Israel feel that they would be justified in a pre-emptive strike to prevent said missiles being made.
Hhmmm....then I thought, well surely the US must see the irony inherent in that logic and it isn't going to escape many people's minds that perhaps the Japanese in 1941 were also justified in their pre-emptive strike agaist Pearl Harbour to prevent themselves from being attacked by nuclear weapons. That is to say of course, if they even knew that Oppenheimer was working on them, which I doubt.
But it would be a beautiful irony wouldn't it. Either way it didn't work becasue the US as we all know dropped two A bombs on the Japanese.
And just as that attack only added to the USA's resolve to enter the war, a joint Israeli-US pre-emptive strike on Iran would only make the Iranians even more determined to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and presumably to launch attacks against the USA.

Seems to me that the US hasn't learned from the historical mistakes of others

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Restricted music competition stomps on culture

This was the last entry on my free thought blog.


26th May 2008
Not only irrelevant music but...


…no right to free speech or free expression
What am I talking about then?
Well, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) of course.
The rules clearly state that the lyrics must not be offensive, must not contain swearing, and must not contain poltiics in any shape or form (in other words no free speech) . Added to that is the rule that limits each performance to a maximum of six people on stage (in other words no free expression) and the rule preventing political manifestations, symbols and uniforms means that the ESC is not only irrelevant from a sociopolitical viewpoint but also from a cultural viewpoint.
And so it is thus reduced to a collection of songs for Europe supervised by a committee that still wants to see Europe (and the rest of the world presumably) through rose tinted glasses, ignoring all the sociopolitical strife and upheaval going on all around us and pretending that everything is all hunky-dorey, peace & love and hugs & kisses and everyone’s happy! All one big happy family from the west coasts of Iceland and Ireland to the Urals and the Caucases! RUBBISH!

And why do I think the music is culturally irrelevant? Well, because all music is based on the culture it is created in, and a large part of any culture is the sociopolitical situation of that culture’s homeland. So for example, if you prevent that which is a huge part of, for example, Irish or Serbian or Israeli culture, in other words a long history of sociopolitical problems, you are in turn preventing a huge part of the cultural make-up of Ireland or Israel or Serbia from being represented in song. Thus making the songs as about as irrelevant as it is possible to make songs.

Whether you like the music or not or whether or not you think the music and the whole show is good or bad is I’m afraid yet another irrelevance.

Status quo protection v free expression

This was the third entry on my other blog, and agian osme editing needed and desired for my part.

Status quo protection v free expression
12th May 2008

At what level of management, leadership, supervision do you think an individual starts worrying about protecting the status quo, in other words, protecting his/her job, wage, reputation, lifestyle, and overly worrying what others think about them rather than defending strongly held personal opinions? And to what level will they sink in order to protect it?

I have in the past, as have most people, encountered many individuals who clearly follow the party line or their company’s policies or preferred opinions regarding certain socio-political, gender, cultural workplace issues that they obviously don’t agree with, and would rather prefer not to support.

And that is quite normal in the workplace even for managers on the lowest rung of the ladder. And usually they don’t have any leverage or tools to support their position if someone should express a view contrary to the workplace views or policies in force.

Yet they continue in that role year after year, simply to protect the status quo, their position, their livelihood, and occasionally being hated for it by workers under their supervision.

Middle managers of course, in this battle between the status quo and freedom of expression and thought, do have tools at their disposal. For example, they can withhold benefits, time off, holidays, pay rises. And worst of all influence the co-workers of the free speaker/free thinker by even resorting to bullying, or “abuse of authority” as it is called in polite legal terms.

Then at the top of the pile we have those who have the most to lose should they express something they really feel or think rather than defending the status quo and their own jobs and reputations when spouting the party/workplace line in conflict with a normal worker who is ironically expressing support of something the top dog him/herself secretly agrees with.

And that can’t be healthy for the top dog, be s/he a Director General, CEO, MD, Colonel, Mayor, Commissioner etc.

In fact, it must be mentally tiring, defending the socio-political, gender, cultural views that your workplace encourages but which you don’t agree with when in conflict with someone saying something you do secretly agree with. Or defending them to such an extent that you must clearly realise that you are infringing on the rights of the worker expressing the contrary.

And so the level of status quo protection here includes all forms of management bullying, peer group pressure, making the individual look stupid or basically trying to shut them up with threats that are not the reserve of top managers but rather 12-year-old children in the school playground.

Free speech is not at all the same thing as free expression

This was the next one,again with some necessary and wanted editing:

Free speech is not free expression
20th March 2008


However, one should never confuse the right to free speech with the ability to express one’s self freely as a result of free thinking. The two are only similar semantically.
Something to consider and digest as an example.
Free speech: kill all abortion doctors - The very contradictory rallying cry of “pro-life” activists outside abortion clinics. “Pro-life? but you’re advocating murder, do you know what the word hypocrite means?”
Free thinking and subsequent free expression of a thought : use aborted foetuses to provide nutrition rich food for new mothers - Why not? Many cultures eat the placenta so why not aborted foetuses?

The Earth is no longer flat

Well, at least The Earth is Flat is no more.....in other words I'm shutting down my other blog The Earth is Flat and I'm going to move the old posts from there over here. And then continue with this blog with a combination of serious and more lighthearted input.

Here to start off is the first post I wrote over there, with some necessary corrective and self-preservation editing:

Being a Free Thinker
13th March 2008


One often hears people using the phrase, “I’m a free thinker”. What they are in fact doing when they say that is marking the fact that they don’t consider themselves to be like anyone else. Well, let me ask you, who in their right individual mind does consider themselves to be like anyone else? Everyone, who is mentally healthy, should consider themselves to be unique to some degree, and in various ways, both large and small.

No, people who say that are usually far from free thinkers, they simply want others to know that they generally don’t agree with one or more commonly held views, for example, racism is wrong. So many racists, rather than say, “No it isn’t” fall back on their standard phrase, “Well, I’m a free thinker” rather than defend racism.

The “I’m a free thinker” crowd nearly always use the phrase as a get-out clause. And truth be told the one thing they are most frightened of is free thinking. They want to be part of the status quo but they also want to be viewed as different to Joe Bloggs. And that’s a dilemma most of them can never work their way out of.
That’s just an example of the misuse of the phrase “free thinker”.

With this blog, I want people to consider what free thinking and free expression really are. Thinking freely, devoid of influence from society as a whole, being able to express your innermost thoughts, ideas, desires and so on, devoid of what your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours might say if you express something, some desire, some wish, some need outside the norm. Devoid of influence from the accepted norms, ethics, standards and morals of modern society.

Free thinking and expression is about analysisng what you personally feel, not what your employer, your superior officer, your parents, your spouse, your church, your political party or your pensions advisor says you should feel.

It’s about using your intelligence and your emotions to think and form opinions for yourself. To decide what you really want, not on some nonsensical, abstract, Oprah level about “life’s goals” and other such pseudo-spiritual rubbish.

But about what you want on a daily basis with regard to work, food, sex, money, clothing, sports, hobbies and so on. And about not being afraid to freely express your innermost thoughts, opinions,desires, hates and so on.

Free thinking and free expression is being able to say that, no, I don’t buy into that oft repeated platitude ”all races are equal”. And I don’t think all peoples are equally as developed and intelligent as each other. And I don’t think everyone thinks the same the world over and I know that not everyone shares the same ethics, standards and morals. And I know that not every nationality values life equally. A simple look at the conflicts currently ongoing around the world will tell any sane person all of the above. But saying all that doesn’t make me a racist or even the same as the racist, who simply falls back on “I’m a free thinker” without any explanation. I’m simply an acute observer of people’s behaviour the world over, behaviour and values that differ so greatly from my own!

So don’t tell me I’m the same as a Saudi Arabian executioner cutting off a person’s head in public, because I could never contemplate killing someone, I’ve never even felt like I really want to.

Being a free thinker does mean of course that you will have to defend your views more often than not. But if that frigthens you off, if you let society, colleagues, family tell you that your thoughts, views, emotions are wrong then you are not a free thinker.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The cult of the individual....

...and the perceived rights of the individual and the whole notion of liberalism advocating each man (woman) for him/herself and advocating the individual as being more important than society as a whole, is for me the only reasonable explanation for the selfishness, naivety, self-centred attitude, and lack of respect for
others displayed by the 22 year old woman in the following incident that occurred at Arvika last weekend. And the only possible reason why incidents like this are becoming more and more commonplace.

Ok, the 22 year old woman complimented a 25 year old woman (who was a complete stranger to her) on her hairstyle.

The 25 year old, not knowing this woman, made some presumably throw away comment as you do to strangers that suddenly say things to you out of the blue.

The 22 year old took offence to this response and poured her cup of hot coffee down the inside of the 25 year old's blouse.

And so quite rightly the 25 year old in shock and self-defence gave the 22 year old a slap in the face.........but guess who it was who reported the incident to the police?...WRONG! It was the 22 year old.

I mean talk about naive, talk about lack of respect, talk about self-centred. Talk about a total absence of the rights of others.

Stuff

Well the last month has gone by in a flash.

I spent 16 to 20 June trying to get everytihng done at work before going on two weeks holiday.
Now I'm back after those two weeks working for one week and trying to get everytihng done at work before going on three weeks holiday. It feels like work never adopts a stadard run-of-the-mill everday pace but is always either urgent and rushed or slow and boring.

Then about a month ago I started up a some cricket with some Pakistani and Swedish friends. A great way to get a bit of exercise and sun and have some fun for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. Apart from when we got absolutely drenched 3 weeks ago.

I was at Arvika festival on Saturday/Sunday for THIRTEEN hours and discovered some great goth, industrial and synth bands I'd never heard before intermixed maongst the boring indie pop bands.

I'm going to see Iron Maiden at Stockholm Stadion on 16th July.

And on 22nd July we're flying to London for a week there.

Then by the beginning of August I hope life and work will be back to "normal". I really don't like the summer or taking holidays.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What a witty answer

Sorry in advance to any English readers but this just doesn't work in English.

Well, the congress for Vänster (the Swedish Socialist Party as I call them...Why? Well, simply because that's what Vänster is ) ended at the weekend. Or The Left Party of Sweden as they call themselves http://www.vansterpartiet.se/kongress2008/

But everytime I read or hear The Left Party of Sweden, I think, "Someone's left the party and it's only 11 o'clock"

I listened to quite a bit of what was going on there on P1. And I just have to share with you what must be the wittiest response of the year by anyone to any question.

It was said by a party member when asked for his response to two of the motions put forward

motion: to accept file sharing, as it is impossible to stop, prevent or control.
motion: to re-opon contact with Cuba

His response was "Ja till fildelning nej till Fidel ledning"


What a witty answer, made even wittier by the fact that it contains all the facts and is a correct and clear response.

My socialist heart was also warmed by the fact that the congress voted NOT to stand on the same electoral platform as the Social Democrats and the Green Party at the next election. And by the continued call to leave the EU.

Coming from London, you see, I've always had a problem with this rödgrönröra in Sweden.
My view is simply this, that you're either a socialist(vänster) or a social democrat or a fruit-loop, green party, middle-class, hippy-liberal trying to save the planet, you can't be all three!

And I'm not.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let's play doctors and nurses

Or at least let's play with their wages a bit.

In my opinion nurses are every bit as important as doctors. Okay, doctors and surgeons have a huge personal responsibility, which I imagine is often extremely mentally taxing. And of course there are fewer of them than there are nurses.

But their extra responsibility, extra training, and their scarcity do not explain the Grand Canyon like chasm between a fully trained nurse's wage and a doctor's wage in Sweden.

We all now know, thanks ot the strike, that nurses, depending on their particular role and skills and healthcare authority they work for, earn roughly between 18 and 25 thousand krona per month.

However, what the vast majority of Swedes don't know is exactly how much various types of doctor earn.

Well, I can tell you, in Sweden doctors and surgeons, again depending on their particular role and skills and the healthcare authority they work for, earn between roughly 25 and 70 thousand krona per month.

Don't be fooled by what various union and healthcare websites tell you about how much they earn, because those figures are only recommendations from unions for the minimum that an AT or ST should earn.

I know several doctors in Karlstad, some are personal friends. And while the nurses' strike was on I aksed three of them how much they earned. Being a foreigner I can get away with asking such questions ;O)

1. ST - hospital - 42,000
2. ST at a clinic (vårdcentral) - 55,000
3. AT - hospital - 32,000

So perhaps the association of local healthcare authorities could look to doctor's pay scales to find the extra money, for argument's sake let's say 5 thousand a month, that nurses so badly need but more importantly so rightly deserve.

After all, doctors on 55,ooo a month aren't going to miss 5 grand going to a just and good cause i.e into a nurse's wage packet, now are they?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Equal treatment from your council? Yes but only if you've got an expensive house.

Sometimes I get very angry at the behaviour of county councils etc. But not as much as last Wednesday 28th May, when I read in VF (local Swedish newspaper) about the open and blatant disregard of equal treatment for all by Karlstad Municipality. Treatment which they even admit to and which is based on saving money.

Basically, some houses in Vålberg (an area outside Karlstad) are at serious risk of subsiding into the ground and surroundning watercourses, so Karlstad Municipality wants to buy these six houses for a cheap price, forcing the families living in them to move, and then tear the houses down. BECAUSE the total value of those six houses is far below the cost of work to shore up the ground to make it safe for those families to continue to live there.

But one family is refusing to sell and move and the municipality can't do anything about it, unless and until the risk of building collapse is re-classified as imminent.


HOWEVER, and this is where I get really pissed off!


A few kilometres north of Vålberg is another area with the same problem, and by now, you've all guessed where I'm going with this.


But in this other area, each threatened property is worth approximatley 3 times as much as those in Vålberg. And the municipality is already planning the work to shore up the ground in this richer area.


Clearly again money talks!

But the houses of the poor can be bought cheaply then simply torn down.

Whatever happened to solidarity? Is that a dirty word nowadays, who's speaking up for these
people in Vålberg?

It seems that the happiness, quality of life, and fairness for all it's residents means absolutely FUCK ALL to Karlstad Municipality!

I really feel for those people in Vålberg.








Friday, May 30, 2008

Complain, complain,complain

As a sunny weekend is upon us I just want to reflect for a few minutes about the unbelievable amount of unnecessary complaining that Karlstad residents indulge in via letters to newspapers.

Here is a list of recent unbelievably stupid and unnecessary complaints to the letters' pages of the two local newspapers

Complaining about:
People exposing skin while sunbathing
People sunbathing in public places
People lying on the grass
Buses not taking every single route that every single person wants
Radio stations playing current music
Radio stations not playing music from 70 years ago that no one wants to listen to anyway
Youngster,youngsters,youngsters
Pensioners, pensioners,pensioners
People who drive too slow

And so on.....


So Karlstad calm down and listen to some Bob Marley ..."sun is shining..."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Finally - a memorial to the non-famine caused by the British

Finally!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/7415927.stm


However, the fact remains that the so called "famine" in Ireland in the 1840s was nothing of the sort - it was a failure by the British government (some say an attempt at genocide) to feed the people of Ireland with the other food that was still being produced by the Irish in Ireland (meat, fish, vegetables, crops) The Irish don't refer to it as "The Famine" but as "The Great Hunger"
Because they were denied food when there was plenty of meat and crops available.

And the word famine means "severe shortage of food" But there was no shortage of food, there was plenty of food being shipped out under armed guard to England and being eaten by the English in Dublin!

The two basic facts everyone needs to know, but which the British government still keeps quiet about after more than 150 years are these:

1. The potato crop failed, in other words the potato blight destroyed all the potatoes. Thus destroyng the one staple food source that the working and poor Irish were "allowed" to eat. Especially those working the land in rural areas.

2. There was plenty of food in the country, plenty of meat, and other crops and other vegetables. It's remarkable that the British seem to think that the potato blight must have killed off
pigs, cows, carrots, wheat, oats, fish and chickens as well!

HOWEVER, the poor people of Ireland were not permitted to eat these foodstuffs, the majority of which was produced for the English living in Ireland or was being shipped to England for English tables during the famine.

Listen to Sinéad O'Connors song "famine" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZCe8Fw8vyM

Or read any good book about the history of Ireland and you'll soon realise that calling, The Great Hunger a "famine" is like calling an April shower in London a monsoon!

Here's the lyrics to Sinead O'Connor's song "Famine" for those of you who don't want to watch Youtube or who can't understand everything she's singing:

OK, I want to talk about Ireland
Specifically I want to talk about the "famine"
About the fact that there never really was one
There was no "famine"
See Irish people were only ALLOWED to eat potatoes
All of the other food
Meat fish vegetables
Were shipped out of the country under armed guard
To England while the Irish people starved
And then on the middle of all this
They gave us money not to teach our children Irish
And so we lost our history
And this is what I think is still hurting me
See we're like a child that's been battered
Has to drive itself out of it's head because it's fightened
Still feels all the painful feelings
But they lose contact with the memory
And this leads to massive self-destruction
ALCOHOLISM DRUG ADICTION
All desperate attempts at running
And in it's worst form
Becomes actual killing
And if there ever is gonna be healing
There has to be remembering
And then grieving
So that there then can be forgiving
There has to be knowledge and understanding
An American army regulation
Says you mustn't kill more than 10% of a nation
'Cos to do so causes permanent "psychological damage"
It's not permanent but they didn't know that
Anyway during the supposed "famine"
We lost a lot more than 10% of a nation
Through deaths on land or on ships of emigration
But what finally broke us was not starvation
BUT IT'S USE IN THE CONTROLLING OF OUR EDUCATION
Schools go on about "Black 47"
On and on about "The terrible "famine""
But what they don't say is in truth
There really never was one
So let's take a look shall we
The highest statistics of child abuse in the EEC
And we say we're a Christian country
But we've lost contact with our history
See we used to worship God as a mother
We're sufferin from POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Look at all our old men in the pubs
Look at all our young people on drugs
We used to worship God as a mother
Now look at what we're doing to each other
We've even made killers of ourselves
The most child-like trusting people in the Universe
And this is what's wrong with us
Our history books
THE PARENT FIGURES lied to us
I see the Irish
As a race like a child
That got itself bashed in the face
And if there ever is gonna be healing
There has to be remembering
And then grieving
So that there then can be FORGIVING
There has to be KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Disgusting class perceptions in Britain's universities

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/tyne/7414311.stm

This appeared on the BBC news site today in the education section.
And once again we’re reminded of the elitist attitudes of some university professors, doctors, lecturers with regard to the intelligence or as they would have people believe, the lack thereof of the working classes.

Of course we all know their opinions aren’t worth the air they’ve expended to utter them. Simply because these type of people aren’t professional psychologists, they are simply expressing their bigoted right wing "nurture over nature" academic views as yet one more way of defending the class discrimination that still goes on in UK universities at all levels from application to graduation.

Charlton’s view is yet more protection of the status quo and his idea of academia. And he seems so caught up in his idea that the upper classes are more intelligent, that responses stating the logic of cause & effect, like that from Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, seem to be something he can’t absorb or is unwilling to acknowledge.

Sally Hunt said: "It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life.”

Exactly! And I’m reminded of a research project on class perceptions that was carried out in England almost 20 years ago.

One part of the project interviewed a societal cross-section of 12 year old girls to identify how they viewed themselves and what expectations they had.
One indicator was the following simple question “Can you ride a horse?”

Now, in well-off middle and upper class areas the girls at private and boarding schools invariably answered “Yes, I can” or “Yes, but I’m not very good at it” or “Yes, but I don’t really like it” or “I don’t know, because I haven’t tried yet” or "I'm sure I'll be able to when I try" and other similar responses, but none of them answered “No”. Because clearly they had been given the chance to try horse riding and could ride. Or clearly expected that they would be able to try it in the near future. Note the use of the word “yet” in the last response.

In less well off mixed middle and working class areas school girls at comprehensive state schools responded invariably with “I don’t know” or ”I’ve never tried” or “Yes” or “No” With no clear future expectations identified either way, but rather a clear ambiguity amongst the different social/class types of the respondents, who obviously had varying expectations of what they might or might not be likely to achieve or try in the future.

Then finally they asked school girls at comprehensive schools in poor working class inner city areas. And now they found, as they had expected from the outset, that there was now absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever. All the girls simply assumed based on their own perceptions of their class and social situation, as well as the perceptions of others about their class and social situation, that horse riding was something that wasn’t even considered and dismissed as an impossibility for them, it was even lower than that, it wasn’t even given a second’s thought. And so close to a 100% of the girls, when asked, “Can you ride a horse?” simply and in a matter-of-fact manner answered, “No”.

The fundamental fact is this: that denial of access to something doesn't mean you're no good at it, or not suited to it, mentally or physically, it simply means you haven't even been given the chance to try it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Advertising and the expression of strange theories dressed up as research and science

Advertising and the expression of strange theories dressed up as research and science

OR

Mathematical lies, statistics, and scaremongering

They amount to much the same thing, but before I dive into an analysis of this, illustrated by a current example, let me give you my favourite quote regarding statistics:

Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. ~Aaron Levenstein

Indeed, and a truer and more concise quote on statistics you won’t find anywhere. Believe me, I’ve tried, and I always come back to Levenstein’s as the best description in under 20 words. There are some great anonymous quotes about statistics but by being anonymous they lack credence. And just as importantly they lack the sting that comes with quotes from famous people. I mean, if you relate an Oscar Wilde quote to someone and say you don’t know who it’s by, it doesn’t have the sting and panache of delivering the quote then rounding off grandly by simply saying two words –Oscar Wilde.

A lengthier but equally dismissive quote regarding statistics comes from one of my favourite authors:
While the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will be up to, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician. ~Arthur Conan Doyle

Anyway, I am often amazed how various companies; especially motor vehicle manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, security companies, medical companies, and even individual scientists, doctors, politicians, and bureaucrats use statistics to enforce their claims and to hide the truths contrary to their claims.

Sometimes I get the feeling that people using statistics think they have invoked some kind of sacred shield that prevents questioning or rebuttal and that makes everyone else ignorant to what the statistics in question are concealing.

Here is one so mind-numbingly unconvincing that I choked on my breakfast back on 27th March when it appeared in a small article in my local daily newspaper VF (Värmlands Folkblad), here in Sweden.

The article was entitled (all following translations are my own, which as a professional translator didn’t prove difficult) :

“A roundish waist at 40 increases the risk for dementia”

So, my first thought is, well, I’m in the risk zone then, I’m 46 now, I’ve got a roundish belly and have had for several years, so I’m interested, I’ll keep reading.

So having got past the scaremongering of the title and the first paragraph telling people in their 40s with round bellies that they are going to suffer from senile dementia in later years and espousing the unreliable findings of this research and therefore this strange theory, I got down to the cold hard statistical lies….sorry I mean…facts.

Of course, by now, even before I’ve told you, you know this is going to be about a study in the US!

Well, the study took 6,583 healthy people in the USA and measured their waists when they were aged between 40 and 45.

Thirty six years later, 16 percent of them were found to be suffering from dementia…… OH MY GOD THAT’S TERRIBLE! SIXTEEN PERCENT…OH NO…THAT’S AWFUL!

I better start dieting, I better exercise more ………HANG ON, HANG ON, HANG ON A SECOND……hold your horses, not so fast there…. 16 percent? 16 percent? That’s not even one quarter!
That means that 84 percent …read that again, EIGHTY FOUR PERCENT didn’t develop dementia!

Please now read Levenstein’s quote again: Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

So what was the point of this article other than to scare people approaching 40 into exercising and dieting? Well, as far as I can see there was no point because no companies were mentioned, no medical institutions in the US were named, and no individual scientists or medicos were named.

The only answer I can come up with is that once again, someone at the news agency, in this case TT, has been blinded by statistics and thought this particular statistic newsworthy, even though it is clearly unreliable, and that there simply is no news story there.

This kind of reporting of statistics could go on ad infinitum were it allowed to occur on a daily basis, for example, we would end up with reports like this : 88 percent of all Irishmen living in Sweden are married to Swedish women – totally uninteresting, totally irrelevant, totally pointless… the statistic that is, not the marriage to the Swedish woman!

And then someone at VF has also been impressed by this non-newsworthy, unreliable scaremongering statistic and thought, “WOW we must print this!”

Which all goes to show that statistics are simply numbers, instead of words, telling you what someone else thinks, and what someone else wants you to hear, wants you to believe and buy into, and ultimately to buy their product or service or follow their advice.

Numbers, and especially when used as statistics, seem to be, for many people, more trustworthy than words, and many people believe that numbers don’t and simply can’t lie.

Well just like words, it is what the numbers don’t tell you that you need to look into, because every single person who uses statistics has an agenda, so don’t be scare mongered or forced into thinking their agenda is the same as yours, especially when the statistics come from what many view as reliable sources i.e. government officials and medical experts.

Let me leave you then with a quote which perfectly captures the essence of number manipulation:

Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything. ~Gregg Easterbrook

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ssangyong

Ssangyong.

A small car sales business in a small town not too far from my own uses the following sales slogan in newspaper ads, “We sell quality second-hand cars of the known makes”. Now, read that again and you will understand how difficult it was for me last week, when I saw their ad in the paper, to resist the temptation to ring them up and ask, “Hello, I’m looking for an unknown make of car. Now I know you only sell the known makes but by definition that either means you sell every single make of car there is or you have some inside information about what the unknown makes are, can you help?” Then, when they’d asked me what the hell I was rattling on about and what make of car I was looking for I’d say, “Well, of course I’m referring to your sales slogan and the make I’m looking for is a Murphy-Svensson, do you know where I can buy one?”

Then of course, just before they dismissed me as an idiot and told me not to call back I would shout Ssangyong as loudly as I could, just before they slammed the phone down, not wishing to associate themselves with unknown Korean vehicles.

Knowledge is exactly what it says on the tin. For any given field, subject, object, or concept you either possess it or you don’t. One can’t claim, as many experts in various fields do, to know that, “what we know is only a fraction of what there is to know in this area of study, the unknown in this field is comprised of perhaps another 75% on top of what we know now.” Really, Mr Scientist, how do you know that? What do you base that on?

This kind of reasoning which crops up in almost every field of social, political and scientific study reminds me of the fantastic sketch the Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson performed back in the early 90s, when he was still a stand-up comic supporting the likes of Eddie Izzard and Billy Connolly and before he started appearing in terrible American sitcoms. (He is the Scottish executive in Drew Carey).

The first two lines of the sketch are all I need to make his point (at the time) and mine now.
In a heavy Scottish accent, “Right, ladies and gentlemen of the audience, I am going to talk about the unknown…oooooh…spooky stuff….oooooh.. Right, what do we know about the unknown? …..long pause….. Well, nothing, because it’s unknown!”

Anyway, if you know the name of a car make but you don’t want to sell it that doesn’t make it unknown. Unreliable, unfavourable and un-sellable in your mind perhaps but far from unknown, because you have made an active choice not to sell certain makes, therefore they cannot be unknown to you.

I dare say that at some point in the future I won’t be able to resist ringing them up any longer and one day hope to be driving around my home town in a brand new Murphy-Svensson built in Pakistan or Norway!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mathematical lies, statistics, and scaremongering

More on this later, I've just accidentally deleted a huge text....bugger!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ha ha the witch is dead

Finally Peter Franke over at VF (local Swedish newspaper) woke up and realised he had a responsibility towards his readers and removed the offensive blog of the two blogging brothers. A blog that has done nothing else since day one than attack the appearance of well known people, and post infantile comments about everything and anything that is unimportant and free of any substance. Basically, the average content of a conversation between media types and teenagers on Stureplan.

All I want to know is why did it take him a month to do it?

Obvious answer is that he was quite happy with the massive figures (and revenue) that that blog was pulling into the website every day. But finally his conscience got the better of him.

Well done Peter. But let's be honest, you took too long to remove it. And you should never have let them blog on VF in the first place. I mean, what were you thinking? Stureplan = Karlstad...nah, not quite!

NWT (a worse local Swedish newspaper) asked the same question about why it took Peter so long to react. And gave much the same obvious answer as I did.

Three holidays in the same week!

Well Happy St. Patrick's Day, which was on Monday 17th.

And Happy Vernal Equinox to you pagans, which is today 20th.

And Happy Easter, which is on Friday and Sunday

Curious note: In Ireland, because St. Patricks Day was on the Monday of holy week, the church decreed that it was to be celebrated on Friday 15th instead, because the drinking of alcohol is frowned upon during holy week.
So it was celebrated on Friday instead of Monday by many people, especially of course the god-fearing Roman Catholics of mother Ireland.

Of course if the Vatican could work out a better system than the extremely complicated one they currently use for reckoning Easter, then it wouldn't feel like Easter gets earlier and earlier each year, and then it wouldn't clash with St. Patricks Day ;) Because when I was a young lad Easter always seemed to fall in April.

This year is the earliest I've ever known Easter to fall:

Easter Day 2008 - 23rd March ...Twenty third of March!!!!
Easter Day 2007 - 8th April
Easter Day 2006 - 16th April
Easter Day 2005 - 27th March
Easter Day 2004 - 11th April
Easter Day 2003 - 20th April
Easter Day 2002 - 31st March
Easter Day 2001 - 15th April
Easter Day 2000 - 23rd April


So maybe in six years time we'll have St. Patricks Day and Easter on the same Sunday!

Cheers and bless you!

Bjork on Tibet

Relatively old news now, in the world of news and blogs, but a few weeks ago while giving a concert in China Bjork started screaming out the name "Tibet" over and over again during one of her more political songs.

Which of course backfired on here to some extent, and which will have lasting repercussions for two main reasons:

1. Fans go to a concert to hear you and your music not for you to insult their government. And if I was at that concert I would have felt insulted on behalf of the Chinese.

I remember at a football match here in Sweden about 3 years ago, a club (with a large Assyrian following and players) wanted a standing minute's silence in commemoration of Turkey's atrocities in their country 90 years ago..NINETY YEARS AGO! What? Come on, the Second World War only finished 63 years ago!
This backfired heavily on the club, who were fined for permitting an unlawful political manifestation during a match, which severely angered the visiting club and most of its supporters. And made most of the rest of the footballing community in Sweden hate the club even more than they already did, because it wasn't a popular club to start with - due to constant ethnic toned statements like the one they were fined for.

And

2. If the words and emotions of your music alone can't lead to political change (if that's what you want) then don't start orating from the stage. Alternatively ditch music and take up politics full time.

On the Tibet issue itself, nowadays it's just an old middle class, trendy-lefty, hippy cause that's not even trendy anymore. China owns Tibet, has done for over 50 years now, get used to it. And if anyone in the world is naive enough to think that any form of words or action (i.e. sanctions or boycotting the Olympics) can influence the world's largest economy to do anything other than they want to do or to give up Tibet, then they are profoundly misguided!

The frightening thing is that the undemocratic rule of China will continue unchallegned because: a, it has such a powerful economy: b, the US and China have reached an understanding - based of course largely on pacific rim political economics; and c, Russia doesn't have the clout the old USSR had, so china doesn't see Russia as a threat.

And if anyone thinks that boycotting electrical goods or shoes or toys or tools or clothing made in China in any was has any affect on the Chinese economy then they really haven't got a clue about global economics.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

When the name of a town is bigger than the town

Yesterday I was, along with everyone else on my department at work, in a Swedish town called Arboga. Now Arboga, is probably best known for its liver paté, which can be bought in probably every food shop in Sweden. What else it might be famous for I don't know, other than the fact that it crops up regularly in news, economy, sports and weather reports.

So I was expecting a medium sized town, with plenty of industries dotted around. Instead I found a quaint little old town with some fantastic old buildings, lanes and alleyways, flea markets and churches, and so small that on the way round the square I almost met myself on the way back!

And it got me thinking about how the names of some places are so well known and have a such a tradition linked to them and such reputations that when you finally arrive in them, you're not disappointed just shocked at how small they are.

Perhaps the best example of this is in Ireland and indeed the one that has shocked me the most, namely Tipperary, made famous of course by the song that was sung (apparently) by British and Irish soldiers fighting against the Germans during the First World War.
Driving through it for the first time in '92, I nearly feel out of the driver's seat, as I said to the missus, "Is that it?"
Again, I was expecting some kind of medium sized town, instead I found a lovely small rural town, with no more streets in it than could be counted on one hand!

And in England I've heard many people talk about and praise the greatness of York and Lincoln, both tiny, ancient cities. And they are officially cities. They've given their names to the surrounding counties and are known and famous for so much. The difference between great name and small size is probably greatest in those two English towns.

Maybe, the greatness of such places and the knowledge of their names lies in just that fact. That they are small homely places that their sons and daughters gladly talk about and praise when they're away from and missing home.

It's a long way to Arboga... nah, it doens't quite have the same ring, does it?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Banksy strikes again!

This time Banksy has struck with an image that very much reminds the viewer of the political
murals of Belfast.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/entertainment_enl_1204805297/img/1.jpg

The accompanying BBC text was: A man walks past a new artwork by graffiti artist Banksy showing two children pledging allegiance to supermarket giant Tesco. It was reportedly discovered on the wall of a pharmacy in Islington, north London on Wednesday morning.


I like it, more please Mr or Ms Bansky whoever you are!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Darwin is spinning!

The newspaper that I subscribe to and therefore take out of my post box every morning and read over breakfast is called Värmlands Folkblad (VF) - a local newspaper from a rural county of Sweden, which would also appear to be somewhat of a Bible belt if the response to the question posed by VF yesterday on its website is anything to go by.

This was the question "How did mankind come to be?"
And the two options provided were: Evolution - Creation

Then each morning the results of the previous day's voting on the question of the day are printed. The result today is shocking, worrying, annoying, horrifying and quite simply baffling.

Evolution - 29%
Creation - 71%

Of a total, it must be said, of only 1,340 votes. Presumably, I would hope though most of those being members of various churches on the campaign trail yesterday crusading for the creation myth!
And not, I hope, as it would appear at first glance a cross-section of average residents of Värmland.

Someone once observed that Sweden is a rural agricultural community (with all that that entails, from superstition, fanatical religion and invoking the gods of weather and fortune) that has moved into the towns.
Well, if the results of yesterday's question of the day are to believed, then Värmland certainly proves that observation.

And Darwin will be spinning in his grave for a good while yet!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Parents should be banned from buying into the best schools

I'm cynical enough to think that it can't just be coincidence that a few days after the Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt's visit to London and his cosy chat with the Labour PM Gordon Brown that the Chief Schools Adjudicator dropped this bombshell on the UK. Thus wanting to apply more of the Swedish approach to British schooling, in other words, children should go to their local state school - just as it is for the overwhelming majority of Swedish children.
The irony is that when I went to school in the 60s and 70s in London that was the case, the vast majority of children did go to their local state school.

One point that the report didn't make though, and it is worth making, is that boarding schools and private fee-funded schools don't necessarily always provide children with a better education! A better environment perhaps, with more choices and options. And certainly more status for them and their aspiring middle class parents, but not always a better education!

And while I agree with the proposal, it is too little too late from a Labour government that should have implemented this kind of ban back in '97 when it came into power. But who are we kidding, the UK has a long tradition of the middle and upper classes sending their children to "better" schools. So a proposal on a ban like this, while socially democratic and sound in theory, isn't in my opinion going to have much affect on parents or on the schools that are run down and neglected.


Reported in the Dail Mail on 29th February - follow the link for the full story. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=523211&in_page_id=1770

Meanwhile, here is the main point of the proposal:

"Parents should be banned from buying into the best schools, says watchdog.

Middle-class parents should be barred from "buying" their way into the catchment areas of good schools and make do with sink schools instead, the admissions watchdog said yesterday. Chief Schools Adjudicator Philip Hunter said a proportion of middle-class families should be forced to send their children to less popular schools to make way for disadvantaged pupils. "

Monday, March 3, 2008

Swedish humour doesn't travel well

A few weeks ago, a couple of Stureplan slickbacks (that is the equivalent of the male Sloane Ranger hooray henry of yesteryear) started their own blogg in one of my local newspapers here in Sweden.

Now a few days before their first entries appeared on their blogg on the newspaper's website, the newspaper in question had a huge article on these two Stockholm bloggers and couldn't stop praising them and how great they were at blogging, and what an honour it was for this newspaper (a small county newspaper, located about 4 hours drive west of Stockholm ) to have them writing a blogg for them.

So last week, at the first opportunity and the first time I remembered to do so I went into this newspaper's website to read this allegedly fantastic blogg by these two brothers. Only to find silly one and two line entries and unfunny jokes and observations by these two. As well as personal attacks on all sorts of people in the sports, media and political arenas. Plus pointless daily observations about their health and various situations and moods they find themselves in. And rants about totally unimportant things that nobody else cares about or even affords a second thought.

The word substance is clearly one they've never heard. Because it is completely absent from their blogg. Or is it just me not understanding this level of puerile Swedish humour?

Maybe it is, in which case, this type of puerile Swedish humour doesn't travel well!