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.


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.

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.

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!